KflNSAS CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY
LEGENDS & FOLK TALES
told by Adele de Leeuw
ILLUSTRATED BY RONNI SOLBERT
The :nany islands of Indonesia, stretching lil^
chai i of jewels across the Indian Ocean, are full of
forests, volcanoes, temples, mountains, rivers, rice
fields, and villages. And there is a story about every-
thing. In the villages, the storyteller is an important
person; children and adults crowd around him as he
tells why the banyan tree is sacred, why there are no
tigers in Borneo, and how the clever mouse-deer
outwits much larger creatures. In the evening, when
the puppet shows are given, the stories are about
kings and warriors and gods.
In these twenty-six legends and tales from Java,
Borneo, Sumatra, and Burma, rajahs and peasants,
holy hermits and fierce giants, children and mis-
chievous animals play the leading roles. Some of the
stories are old, some are new; some are somber, some
gay, but all reveal a keen understanding of human
nature. Miss Solbert's drawings have completely
captured the magical atmosphere of the enchanting
THOMAS NELSON & SONS
KANSAS CITY. MO. PUBLIC Ll BHft
D pp(|l Dgfl77B M
U'. , 5 ^L !J^
DEC -07 -W
Indonesian legends &
LEGENDS & FOLK TALES
LEGENDS & FOLK TALES
told by Adlle de Leeuw
ILLUSTRATED BY RONNI SOLBERT
THOMAS NELSON & SONS
Edinburgh NEW YORK Toronto
BY ADELE DE LEEUW
Indonesian Legends & Folk Tales
A Heart for Business
The Story of Amelia Earhart
1961, by Adele de Leeuw
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Conventions. Pub-
lished in New York by Thomas Nelson & Sons and simultaneously in Toronto,
Canada, by Thomas Nelson & Sons (Canada), Limited.
DESIGNED BY FRANK KARPELES
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 61-13829
Printed in the United States of America
For Tini ? Hera, and Jo
my Javanese friends
THE LEGEND OF PASOPATI 9
THE GOLDEN BUTTERFLY *4
THE SOUL IN THE MOUNTAIN RICE 21
THE ORIGIN OF THE BROMO FEAST 26
THE LITTLE SAWAH 3
THE CLEVER SQUIRREL 3^
AN OLD SUMATRAN LEGEND 40
THE HOLY MOUNTAIN 45
THE ORIGIN OF THE WATER JARS 5 1
THE THREE COMPANIONS 5^
FIRE 7 WATER, AND HONOR 5^
THE SAGA OF THE WARU WANGGI 6l
THE DECISION 65
THREE TALES OF THE MOUSE-DEER 68
WHY THE WARINGEN TREE IS HOLY 8l
MOHAMMED AND THE SPIDER 9
WHY THE CROCODILE HATES MAN 94
WHY THERE ARE NO TIGERS IN BORNEO 99
THE LEGEND OF THE KARANG 1^4
THE MIGHTY HUNTER 1O 9
WHY CROWS ARE BLACK
THE CHILDREN'S SEA 117
THE MAGIC OYSTERS 1 27
THE BATTLE OF THE BUFFALOES 135
THE SACRED FISH OF POLAMAN 140
THE WONDER-TREE 151
Glossary 1 57
THE LEGEND OF PASOPATI
IN THE DAYS of the Hindus, before Mohammedanism had
come to Java, there lived on the island a king whose name was
Jamojojo. He was so warlike that he counted his battles by the
hundreds. He was always in the forefront, armed with a sort
of poniard which had something of the shape of a kris, but
which wasn't a kris because that weapon had not yet been
The king had never been wounded; and his people whis-
pered that that was because of his weapon, which he always
carried in his right hand. It had been given to him by a tapa,
"Take good care of it," the old hermit had said at the time,
"for if someone ever takes away your weapon, your power will
go with it!"
This was known also to the king of the giants, one of Jamo-
jojo's greatest enemies. One night when the great warrior
lay sleeping after a victorious battle, the king of the giants
with his courtiers and a number of servants suddenly came
upon him. The weapon which the king still held in his hand
was taken from him, and he himself was bound and carried
to one of the underground caverns in the giant's palace.
10 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
Now the king, who had been accustomed to liberty, was
extremely unhappy. Separated from his beloved wife, he re-
fused all food and drink which was brought to him, and he
seldom slept. But on a certain night, as the moon was show-
ing through the cracks of the dungeon, he fell into a deep
sleep. And in his slumber there appeared an angel who said
"Jamojojo, they have taken away your weapon which the
old tapa gave you. But in its place you shall receive another
weapon, and in a most unusual manner. . . ."
Just as the king was about to ask, "In what manner?" the
angel disappeared. Jamojojo thought long over this amazing
dream, until one night something even stranger occurred.
This time it was not an angel who appeared to him in his
dream, but Durga, the beautiful goddess who had once con-
quered the buffaloes. Durga said to him:
"Jamojojo, someday you shall have a son who will bring
you good fortune. Through him you shall acquire a weapon
that is better and more beautiful and shaped differently from
the poniard which the king of the giants has taken from you."
The king wanted to question her, but the goddess suddenly
Jamojojo did not understand anything of his strange dreams.
Night and day he pondered over them, wondering about the
new weapon which he was to receive as soon as a son was
born to him. Because of all his pondering, and because he did
not touch the food and drink set before him, Jamojojo grew
thin and ill. And the king of the giants, who was not so wicked
after all, promised himself that as soon as he had won a battle
over one of his enemies he would give Jamojojo his freedom.
This happened sooner than the king of the giants expected,
Jamojojo was released from his prison and was permitted to
return to his queen and his kingdom, a free man but on one
The Legend of Pasopati 1 1
condition: as ransom he must send to the giant all the weapons
in his domain. ''Because/' said the giant, 'you must never
fight any wars again. There must be peace in your kingdom
from now on."
When Jamojojo heard this condition, he bowed his head
before his conqueror and promised that, as soon as he reached
his own country, all weapons should be delivered to the king
of the giants. This promise cost the warrior a mighty struggle,
but he loved his freedom above all.
And so it happened that every one of his subjects, from
the lowliest Javanese to the highest noble, "brought his weapons
to Jamojojo, and they were delivered by the thousands to the
palace of the king of the giants.
The last of his subjects to come before him was an old
man, the only Mohammedan in Java, who had come from a
land over the sea. His name was Pasopati. He laid his weapon
at the king's feet and spoke almost the selfsame words of
prophecy that Jamojojo had heard several times during his
"My king," said the old man, "we have all had to deliver
our weapons to the king of the giants. But fear not, because
soon thou shalt have another weapon, better, more beautiful,
and entirely different in shape from all other weapons in
existence. It is Allah who has so ordained/'
The king and his courtiers laughed at these words. 'Who
is this Allah?" asked Jamojojo. "We do not know him/'
"Perhaps he himself is Allah/' mocked one of the nobles.
"Perhaps he has still another weapon hidden!' 7
The king had the same thought. "We will not let ourselves
be deceived by you!" he cried. "Perhaps you have kept back
another weapon that you will want to sell us later! Come,
bring it here, or else"
But Pasopati shook his head at this accusation. He said
12 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
that he did not possess any other weapon, and that Allah
was not a person and did not live on the earth, but in the
No one believed him. People called him a deceiver, and
he was thrown into one of the underground dungeons of the
And soon no one thought any more of the poor old man
in his dark, damp cell until the day a son was born to the
queen. The little prince, who was a wonderfully sturdy and
handsome child, brought something very strange into the
world with him.
It was a little golden kris which hung at his left side on a
While the king, the queen, and all the nobles were lost in
amazement over this, they suddenly remembered the prophecy
which the king had heard in his dreams. They remembered,
too, the last prophecy which had been spoken by Pasopati,
who at that very moment was imprisoned in the underground
"Take Pasopati out of prison immediately/ 7 ordered the
king, "and bring him here."
But when the grey-haired old man was brought in and
wanted to bow down before his king, he was so weak that he
fell to the ground, and his eyes closed. Pasopati felt that Allah
was calling him, that he was dying. . . . But still he lifted
his eyelids once more and looked toward the little prince who
lay beside him on his silken cushion.
"It is Allah's will," he whispered, his voice growing weaker
with every word. "He came into the world with the golden
weapon, the weapon that Allah bestowed on him. But not for
fighting shall this weapon serve. . . ." And then his dimming
eyes turned toward the king. "My lord, thou and thy people
shall make your weapons like this one, and ye shall carry them
as a sign that someday ye shall submit to Allah's will. Because
Allah is great and mighty and everlastingly good. Learn to
Hardly had Pasopati said this, when he closed his eyes for-
And in his sorrow that he had punished the old man who
was without guilt, the king called the weapon which his son
had brought into the world, "Pasopati."
And that is what the Javanese call the kris to this day, the
kris which is made, so they say, like the one with which the
young prince came into the world.
THE GOLDEN BUTTERFLY
KEMBANG MELATI, a beautiful young princess, lived with her
old nurse and many serving-women in a palace on the bank
of a great river.
Rajah Banjir, the monarch of the rains, lived in his rainbow-
colored palace on the other bank of the river. He could cause
floods to appear at his will, and his tears made brooks and
rivers swell. From his windows he could see the little princess
weaving her bridal dress, and he could hear her singing a song
for luck. But the princess never looked toward his side of the
The monarch of the rains kept gazing at her with great sad
eyes. Because he was so sad, he wept many tears, and the river
swelled and the wind sighed softly through the high trees
around the palace. The princess heard the sighing of the wind,
and saw the river rising higher and higher. But she did not
know that it was her future husband who was weeping and
calling to her.
For many days the monarch of the rains yearned for the
princess. Finally, to be near her, he changed himself into a
golden butterfly and flew back and forth before her window
The Golden Butterfly 15
until at last the princess saw him and opened the window so
that she could admire his dazzling wings.
^ Then the golden butterfly lighted on Kembang Melatf s
little hand, kissed her finger tips, and flew out of the window.
A few days later the butterfly returned and perched on
Kembang Melatfs right ear and whispered to her, "Weave
your bridal dress quickly, princess, for soon your bridegroom
The princess heard only the word "bridegroom." She asked,
'Where is my bridegroom?" The butterfly did not answer
her, for he had flown out of the window.
But someone else had heard her question. That was Nasi-
man, the wicked son of the princess's old nurse. He went to
his mother at once. "Mother," he said, "I was standing out-
side the princess's window and I heard her ask, 'Where is my
bridegroom?' I want you to go to her and tell her that I am
'That you can never be, son/' the old woman said, "be-
cause you are not of noble birth."
"Nevertheless, I wish to marry the princess," he answered.
"Go to her, Mother, and tell her that her bridegroom has
Nasiman was wicked and cruel, and his mother was afraid
of him. So she went to the princess and told her of the bride-
groom who had come to claim her hand. Just then the golden
butterfly flew back and whispered in the princess's ear, "The
real bridegroom has not yet come, princess. The one who is
now under your roof is a wicked man. His name is Nasiman,
and he is the son of your old nurse, Sarinah. Do not many
him. . . . Wait till the true bridegroom comes!"
When the golden butterfly had flown away, the princess
said, "I will wait, nurse, till the true bridegroom comes/'
l6 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
"This is the true bridegroom/' the nurse insisted. She
clasped her hands and begged, "Oh, princess, dear princess,
marry him at once, for if you do not, we shall both die! 7 '
The princess did not want to die. So finally she said to
her nurse, "Tell the bridegroom who has come that I must
have seven days to think it over. Tell him to wait on the bank
of the river and I will send him my answer there/'
Nasiman found this idea good, and agreed. He took a big
basket, filled it with food to last him seven days, and had it
carried to a spot on the bank of the river.
On that same day the monarch of the rains called to him
a white crow, one of his best and biggest messenger-birds, and
gave her a little chest full of costly ornaments and a letter.
"Take these immediately to the Princess Kembang Melati,"
he ordered, "and make sure that you don't lose anything."
"Don't worry, master," the crow replied. "I myself will take
everything to the princess."
The white crow flew off with the little chest bound fast to
her back and the letter between 'her claws, and winged her
way to the opposite bank of the river. There she saw Nasiman
eating the last of a delicious-looking fish. The white crow,
who loved fish, flew over swiftly, and cried, "Oh, how good
that looks! May I have a little bite?"
"How do you dare ask me that?" Nasiman demanded
crossly. "Who are you, and where do you come from, with a
letter in your claws and a chest on your back?"
"Well," the crow answered smugly, "I happen to be the
messenger of the great magician, the monarch of the rains!
And I am to take this letter and this little chest to the Princess
Kembang Melati, as my master ordered. What's more, I am
to give them to her myself."
"Hmm/' Nasiman said with a false little laugh. "In that
case, Til let you eat some of my fish. Put down your letter
and take the chest from your back, and fall to!"
The white crow didn't have to be invited twice. She laid
the letter and the little chest in the grass, and began to eat
greedily of the delicious bit of fish.
Nasiman lost no time. He opened the chest, took out the
beautiful golden ornaments and in their place put some "big
spiders and some gruesome-looking scorpions. Then he hur-
ried to his mother with the letter. "Mother/ 7 he said, "I can't
read, but I imagine that this letter must be full of lovely
words. Now I want you to change them, at once, into ugly
words. Meanwhile I'll hide these ornaments."
The white crow was so busy eating that she did not notice
what was going on. She ate the fish, down to the last scrap.
Then she went to get a drink at the spring. The spring mur-
mured to her, "Ah, white crow, why didn't you take the letter
l8 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
and the little chest to the princess as Rajah Banjir said?"
But the white crow didn't hear. She didn't hear the wind,
either, sighing to her, "Ah, white crow, something dreadful
will happen because of your greediness!"
And something dreadful did happen. When the princess
saw the white crow come, bearing the letter and the little
chest, she believed that the bird came from her true bride-
groom, and in great excitement she decided to read the letter
first. As her eyes flew over the words, she could hardly believe
what she read: "You are very ugly," the letter said, "and
what is in the little chest is foul and old. That goes, too, for
your green hair and your blue skin."
She was so angry that she tore the letter into shreds and
tossed the little chest, without opening it, through the window.
The spiders and the scorpions swarmed over the garden to
the great astonishment of the white crow who could not
understand how her master could have sent such horrible
things to the lovely princess.
But Nasiinan laughed to himself. Now the princess would
marry him, he thought
But the princess had no thought of marrying anyone now.
She was bitterly grieved by the ugly letter. Weeping, she
paced back and forth in her chamber. No one could comfort
her, and she cried, "Take away my weaving stool! I will never
weave again on my bridal gown!"
Toward evening of that sad day the golden butterfly came
back and flew through the open window. He lit on the prin-
cess's ear. "Darling princess," he whispered, "why don't you
wear the beautiful ornaments that your bridegroom sent
At that the princess hit at him with an angiy hand.
The great monarch of the rains thought surely she was only
The Golden Butterfly 19
teasing him. He whispered in her ear again: "Beloved little
princess, would you like to see your bridegroom tomorrow
morning? He will take you to his rainbow-colored palace
where the golden rays of the sun are magnified a thousand
times into the most wonderful colors, and where you shall
see woven cloth so fine, so dazzling, that it is like moonbeams!
Come, darling princess, finish weaving your bridal gown, for
tomorrow your bridegroom comes!"
The princess grew even angrier. She called her serving-
women to her and bade them chase the golden butterfly away
and never again to let it come inside.
When the great magician heard the princess say these words
he became so angry that he caused a mighty flood to come
over the land that very night. Everything that was not sub-
merged drifted away, torn loose from the land. The palace
with Princess Kembang Melati and her nurse and the wicked
Nasiman and all the others who lived in it, drifted on the
The palace drifted farther and farther, until it came near the
other bank where the palace of the great monarch of the rains
stood. The king was in his doorway, watching, but when he
saw the princess's palace floating toward him he pretended
not to see it. The princess cried piteously for help, but he
pretended not to hear.
They were drifting out of sight when the nurse cried out
in despair, "It's my fault! I bear the blame! It was I who
changed the beautiful words of the letter into ugly ones! And
my son, Nasiman, filled the little chest with spiders and scor-
pions while the white crow was eating the fish 1 /'
When he heard the nurse's confession, the monarch of the
rains understood everything. He leaped down and dragged
the princess and all the others out of the drifting palace and
2O INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
brought them into his own. Only her old nurse and the nurse's
wicked son were not permitted to enter,
"May great waves engulf you!" he thundered. And at his
words mighty waves, as high as the heavens, rose in the water
and swallowed up the nurse and her son.
The white crow was punished, too, for her greediness. She
was changed into a black bird which could never speak again.
All she could say was, "Kaw . . . kaw . . . kaw . . . kr -
kr. . . ." It meant "gold . . . gold/' But though the crow
searched, she never could find the gold and jewels with which
the little chest had been filled.
When the evildoers were punished, the monarch of the rains
caused the flood to subside. In a short time, the whole world
was dry once more, and when he had accomplished that he
turned to the princess and told her that he was the son of a
nobleman and that for days and nights he had yearned for her.
Kembang Melati took pity on him. She knew that he was
truly her bridegroom from the way he spoke to her. So she
married him and lived the rest of her happy life with him
in the rainbow-colored palace on the bank of the river.
But, strange to tell, no mortal has ever found the spot where
that palace stood.
THE SOUL IN THE MOUNTAIN RICE
TISNA WATI lived with her father, Batara Guru, in the god's
heaven. Now Tisna Wati was a most beautiful and charming
little goddess, but she wasn't at all happy in the gods 7 heaven.
Sometimes, when she looked down at the earth, far below her,
and saw people busy at their various tasks, she would sigh,
"Oh, if only I could be an ordinary mortal!" -
And when her father had gone forth to do battle with the
giants and the demons of the air, she would mourn because
she could not go with him. When he came back, she would be
pouting and out of humor.
One day, when she was especially surly, her father lost his
temper. "Come here!" he ordered in a stem voice. "Your
grumbling and your silly whims annoy me, and nothing would
please me better than to send you down to earth to become an
ordinary mortal. Alas, I cannot do that because you have
drunk of the life-water and are immortal. But I have thought
of something else for you. Til choose one of the young gods to
be your husband, and he will soon teach you to get over your
22 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
"Oh, I already know of someone who could be my hus-
band, Father/' the little goddess cried happily.
"Who can that be?" her father demanded. "Not one of
those awful air giants, I hope. Because I absolutely forbid you
to marry the son of one of my enemies."
"Oh, no, Father, it's not one of the buatas. And he doesn't
live in the air, nor in the gods 7 heaven, either. He lives on the
earth. Look down . . . you can see him now. He's that hand-
some young man who is plowing the rice field that lies on
the side of the hill."
"But that's the son of a man!" her father said angrily. "He's
an ordinary mortal! You can't marry him; you are the daughter
of a god! You shall never marry him. I won't permit it!"
"But I will marry him!" Tisna Wati shrieked, stamping her
tiny foot. "I will never marry anyone else. He shall be my hus-
bandeven if I have to leave this place forever."
"And I say that you shall never marry him!" her father
stormed. "I'd rather change you into a rice stalk. And let
me tell you that just as soon as possible I will choose a son
of one of the gods to be your husband. Do you understand?"
When Tisna Wati saw how angry her father was, she was
afraid that her fate would be the same as that of Dewi Sri, the
lovely wife of the great god Vishnu, who disobeyed her hus-
band and was killed by him and changed into a rice stalk. It
was her deathless spirit that lived in the fields of rice, the
But Tisna Wati was not as meek as Dewi Sri. She would
never let herself be changed into a rice stalk. And certainly
she would never, never marry a son of one of the gods! She
had set her heart on the handsome young mortal, plowing his
fields on the hillside.
Egrly the next day her father left to seek a husband for
her. But just as he was setting out, word came to him that the
giants of the air and the evil demons were threatening the
gods again, and he would have to go to war against them.
"When I come back, however, 111 bring your husband with
me," he said to his daughter.
Tisna Wati said meekly, 'Very well, Father." But as soon
as he had left, she leaped on the wings of the wind and was
floated down to earth. The wind was kind to her and took her
close to the hillside where the young man was plowing his
Tisna Wati said to herself, "Now I can really see him
close/' And she sat down on the slope of the hill to wait for
the young man to notice her.
When he turned at the end of a row, he saw her. And he
24 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
thought she was as beautiful as a vision. He came to her and
said, wonderingly, ''What are you looking for, lovely maiden? 7 '
"I'm looking for my husband/ 7 Tisna Wati answered,
It was such a strange answer that the young man began to
laugh, too, and they laughed together. They laughed because
they were happy and in love, and the sound of their laughter
rose to the heavens. That was their undoing.
For when their voices reached the place where Tisna Wati's
father was battling against the giants and the demons, he
heard it. He stopped and listened. That was his daughter's
voice! And the voice of a strange young man! He bent and
looked toward the earth . . . and there he saw his daughter,
sitting beside a handsome young man, and their joyous
laughter was louder to him than the noise of battle.
Raving with anger, Batara Guru gave up the battle with
his enemies and flew down to earth. When he came to the
hillside where his daughter sat beside the young man, he
thundered, "Come with me at once! I'm taking you back to
the gods' heaven."
But Tisna Wati had no desire to return to the gods' heaven.
She was in love with the young man, and her love was stronger
than her father's will.
"No," she said firmly, "I am never going back. I'd rather
become an ordinary mortal and stay here on earth with my
"Then stay you shall!" her father roared angrily. "But not
as the daughter of a god, and not as a mortal, either! You
shall become a rice stalk and your spirit shall become one
with this rice field." Even as he spoke, Tisna Wati changed
from a goddess into a slim rice stalk.
When the slender rice stalk bent toward the young man, he
The Soul in the Mountain Rice 25
stroked it with loving fingers. His plowing was forgotten,
everything was forgotten, and in his sorrow he could only
gaze at the graceful stalk that had been his beloved Tisna
When Batara Guru saw this, he was overcome with re-
morse. "I could have left them together," he said. "Now I
cannot change her back . . . she must remain a rice stalk
forever, for her spirit is already here in this rice field. But
perhaps I could change him into a rice stalk, too/'
When he had done this, he saw how the two stalks bent
toward each other, as if they were telling how much they loved
one another. He watched them a while, and shook his great
head. "It is well/' he muttered to himself, and flew back to
the gods' heaven.
And ever since that day, the story says, the spirit of Tisna
Wati has been in the mountain rice, just as the spirit of Dewi
Sri is in the sawah rice.
But where the spirit of the handsome young man went,
no one knows.
THE ORIGIN OF THE BROMO FEAST
EVERY YEAR the Hindus who live in the Tengger mountains
of Java celebrate the Bromo Feast, and this legend tells how
Kyai Kesunia and Nyai Kesuma were Hindus. They had a
little house in the neighborhood of the great Sand Sea and
lived there in happiness and contentment. But there was one
thing missing in their lives: they had no child. And because
they were both old, they could not hope to have a son a son
for "whom they had prayed to Brahma so many years.
On a certain evening, shortly before midnight, they heard a
gentle knock at the door of their little house. Kyai got up and
opened the door, and there stood an old and poorly clothed
man who said, "Please give me just a handful of rice and let
me sleep this night under your roof! For I have come a long,
long way, and I am tired and hungry/'
Kyai called his wife, and both of them asked the old man
in. They brought him a new sleeping mat, and Kyai said, x
''Rest here and be our guest as long as you like/' And Nyai
brought coffee and rice cakes, and said in a friendly voice,
"Eat of these rice cakes and drink of this coffee until you are
satisfied. And then lie down and sleep after your long jour-
The old man ate of the rice cakes and drank of the coffee,
and then he lay down on the mat and fell asleep. But when
Kyai and Nyai Kesuma woke up next morning and looked at
the place where they had left the old man, they saw him,
surrounded by a strange light, standing on the sleeping mat.
Now he was no longer old and bent, but as handsome and
straight as one of the gods. He told the old couple that he
had been sent to them by Brahma.
"Brahma has heard your prayers/' he said, "and a son shall
be bom to you. When this son is full-grown, I shall come back
to tell you what Brahma's will is, and I am sure that you, who
28 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
are so devout and so brave, will do whatever Brahma demands
Kyai and Nyai bowed their grey heads to the earth, as a
sign that they would do Brahma's will without a murmur. And
when they looked up again, Brahma's messenger had dis-
It was just a year after this miraculous visit that a son was
born to them. The boy was very handsome, and the older
he grew the more handsome he became. As the years went by,
he grew into a strong young man, and he was so brave and
tireless and so good to his elders that Kyai and Nyai called
their son the support and pride of their old age.
One night, when the boy had reached young manhood,
there came again a gentle knock at the door, and once more
the messenger of Brahma stood before the old couple. The
face of the demigod was somber, and he spoke in a soft, grieved
"Brave people, tomorrow night is the new moon. Then you
and your son must climb the mountain Bromo, up to the very
edge of the crater. For on that night Brahma will demand
your son. You must offer to your god, whatever he demands
of you without complaint. "
"Brahma's will be done," said the old couple, bowing to
Without murmuring, without complaining, the two old
people started the next night, with their son, for the mountain
Bromo. It was a long way to the place where Brahma was to
demand their sacrifice. When they had reached the rim of
the crater they knelt on the ground and prayed, "Mighty
Brahma, here is our son, the great sacrifice that you have
demanded of us. See, here is our child, the support and
consolation of our old age. Take him to you. But let us go with
The Origin of the Bromo Feast 29
him. Let us die with him. Because, Great Father, we are both
so old and so tired. And what will become of us if you talce
our son away? Who will herd our goats? Who will fetch the
water from the brook, and plant the grain, if our son is not here
to do it for us?"
With their heads bowed to the earth, and with their son
between them, they waited to hear what Brahma would say.
And suddenly they heard Brahma's godlike voice speaking
to them. "Kyai and Nyai Kesuma, I will not demand your
son as a sacrifice. He will be the support of both of you so
long as you live. I only wanted to find out if you were willing
to follow me, your god. You have given me that proof; you
have honored my will. Go back to your home, and live there
happily with your son!"
"We thank you, mighty Brahma, we thank you for your
unending goodness/' the old people cried with gladness. "We
will always think of you with deep love. And we will always
remember this day by offering you the finest things that our
fields and our herds have to give."
With their son, they hurried back to their little house.
There they took the fattest goat out of the herd, and the
fairest ears of grain from the field, and they sent their son
back to Bromo with these gifts.
After he had killed the goat on the rim of the crater, the
son threw the costly meat and the ears of grain into the crater
and said, "Mighty Brahma, we bring you our offering, the best
that we possess, in thanks for your goodness to us. May this
be acceptable to you! And every year we will bring you such
an offering again/'
And from that time on, on this selfsame day, the Hindus
who live in the Tengger mountains have brought their offer'
ings to Brahma, to celebrate the Bromo Feast in his honor.
THE LITTLE SAWAH
A STARVING BOY went wearily from village to village. His name
was Dongso and he had been dismissed by a rich widow for
whom he had worked, because the harvest had been so poor.
The widow was known throughout the land as the owner of
the most fruitful acres, but after Dongso had come the harvest
had been so meager that he alone ate more rice than the
fields produced. It happened not once, but twice. The widow
herself had seen how well Dongso had prepared the sawah
and tended the young rice shoots, but when they had grown
tall and ready to be harvested, the stalks were empty of ker-
nels and hung limp in the sun.
After the second harvest, the village people began to whisper
that the young man might be a bad spirit. Perhaps he had
been sent to earth by Allah to punish the widow because
she was so stingy and made such meager offerings to the vil-
lage-spirit and the sawah-spirit.
The widow, of course, heard these whisperings, and in
anger she dismissed Dongso, without paying him.
Weak with hunger Dongso came one evening to the out-
skirts of a village and knocked at the door of the first house
he saw. It was a little hut in the midst of a small sawah owned
The Little Sawah 31
by a poor old woman, Randa Derma. When Dongso knocked,
she opened the door to him and he fell across the threshold.
"Please," he said feebly, "give me a handful of rice. I am
"Why do you have to beg?" she asked him. "You look strong
and you are young. Why don't you earn your rice? Why don't
you work for your food?'*
But she was a goodhearted woman and she pulled her
unexpected guest into the room without waiting for his an-
swer. She set rice and coffee in front of him. "Eat and drink,
my son/' she said. "And then tell me why you beg rather than
The boy began to eat without a word, trying to make up
for the many days he had gone hungry. When at last he was
satisfied, he told the old woman his story. "I did my best/' he
said. "I worked hard all the time I took care of the widow's
sawahs. And truly I could not help it, it was not my fault,
that the ears were almost always empty. I think," he said
slowly, "it was because she did not make offerings to the pro-
tecting spirits and they were punishing her. And how could I
force them to make the ears full of grain?"
"No, of course you couldn't/' the old woman agreed. "But
if you will stay with me and work my little sawah, I will give
you one fifth of the harvest yield. The trouble is, I have no
buffalo. But the field isn't very big. . . ."
"It won't matter/' Dongso said. His eyes shone with grati-
tude for her offer. "I'll do my best for you."
Early the next morning, he started for the sawah, with only
a spade. He turned the earth as if he had a fine plow and a
strong buffalo working for him. When the time came for the
sowing he did that, too, with speed and skill. Now he must
wait with patience for the ripening. Then he would be able
32 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
to harvest full, fine ears of rice! It was almost as if his wishes
were coming true, for the rice stalks grew tall and straight, and
the ears turned a beautiful golden yellow.
But then the worst happened, the same thing that had
happened when he was working in the fields of the rich widow.
The fine-looking stalks carried only empty ears, with not a
grain of rice in them! He asked himself, in despair, "Can it
be that this woman, too, has made no offering to the spirits?
Or can it be that I am the one who brings bad luck to people?"
He couldn't bear to tell the old woman what was troubling
him. She would find out for herself soon enough, when she
went into the field for the harvest.
As the day drew near Dongso grew sadder and sadder. The
night before the harvest he couldn't sleep a wink. He lay on
his mat, tossing from side to side, thinking of the empty ears
of rice in the field and how unhappy the old woman would be.
The more he thought about it, the more he felt that he could
not face her disappointment when she opened the ears of
rice that had been cut. Very early, long before sunup, he
would leave the village; he would steal away as he had come,
and beg from door to door till he found work again.
As quietly as a mouse he crept out of the hut next morning
and started for the road. But before he left the village for
good, he had to look once more at the little sawah where he
had labored so long and faithfully. Walking sadly between
the tall stalks, he looked again at the golden-yellow, empty
ears. Idly he plucked one off and opened it. As he had thought,
there were no rice grains in it.
Then his mouth fell open and he looked again, hardly be-
lieving what he saw. There were no grains of rice, but there
were grains of gold, pure, glittering gold! He was dazed with
astonishment. This couldn't be. Maybe in one ear, but surely
not Dongso picked another one, and still another one, and
yet another one, and each ear was filled with kernels of
He ran back to the little hut, and found the old woman
busy with her weaving. She looked up at him in astonish-
ment. "Why are you so happy, Dongso?"
Dongso almost told her. But he wanted her to see the amaz-
ing sight herself. He wanted her to find the kernels of gold
as he had found them. So he said, "Because today we are
going to give a wonderful harvest feast, Randa Derma!"
The old woman's wrinkled face puckered sadly when
he said that "No, Dongso/'. she said with a sigh, "I'm sorry,
but we can't do that. We can only make a simple meal. I
spent the last of my money on offerings to the spirits of the
village and of the sawah so that they might bless the har-
vest. . . ."
34 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
"And so they have!" he shouted. "Wait till you see how
they have blessed the harvest!" He took her by the hand and
led her to the sawah. The old woman stumbled in her haste
to follow his quick steps as he hurried her to the place where
he had made the amazing discovery.
Dongso tore off a stalk and gave it to her. "Look inside,
Little Mother/' he urged, and he watched as she opened the
ear and found the golden kernels. He laughed when she
shrieked with joy. "What did I tell you? What did I tell you?"
But the old woman pulled herself together quickly. "Now
Allah be praised/' she said, bowing her head. "My little rice
field has brought forth more than a hundred great sawahs
could bring forth. Allah be praised!"
She had promised Dongso a fifth of the harvest and she
gave him a fifth of the harvest. Now he was rich. He could
buy himself a sawah, he could buy buffaloes, as many as he
needed, as many as he wanted. But Dongso bought neither a
rice field nor buffaloes. He was faithful to the old woman who
had befriended him, and he took care of the many spreading
sawahs she bought with the same zeal that he had taken care
of her tiny sawah. And he did to others who came to help
him as she had done to him he gave them one fifth of the
crop of the lush acres.
It has been so from that day to this: One fifth of each
sawah's harvest is divided among the helpers. From that day
to this, too, there has never been want or poverty in that dis-
trict. The people of Derma have lived in peace and plenty all
That's what the village was namedDerma, after the old
woman who had befriended Dongso and who had been so
poor that she could not even offer a harvest feast. But the
The Little Scwah 35
Javanese do not believe the village's well-being came from the
fruitfulness of the countryside. They believe the good fortune
of the village and its people is due to the lovely temple Dongso
built to the memory of his benefactor, after she died, on the
very spot where once the little sawah had been.
THE CLEVER SQUIRREL
ONE DAY a man was walking through a dense forest. In one
hand he carried a kris, and in the other a long lance, in case
he met any tigers and snakes along the way.
He had reached the edge of the forest and was congratulat-
ing himself that he had not had to use either his kris or his
lance, when all at once he heard, just above his head, a most
frightful noise. He looked up into the branches from where
it seemed to come, and he saw an enormous snake that had
caught its tail in a split of one branch.
The snake was doing everything it could to free its tail.
Suddenly it saw the man and called out to him, "Oh, help
me, help me! Make the split in the branch a little wider with
your lance, so that I can get my tail out and be on my way/'
"Til gladly do that/' said the man, "if you'll first promise
me that you will do me no harm after I have freed you/'
"Well now, why should I do you harm?" asked the snake.
"You have nothing to fear from me/*
So the man made the split in the branch a little wider with
his lance and the snake pulled its tail out,
"Reach your lance up to me/ 7 the snake said then, "so that
I can crawl along it down to the ground/ 7
This the man did. The snake curled itself around the lance
but, instead of creeping along it to the ground, it stopped at
the man's shoulder and twined itself fast around his neck.
"Ho, what are you doing?" the man cried out in terror.
"Why are you twining yourself around my neck? Why don't
you crawl down to the ground?"
"Because I want to slay you/' hissed the snake.
"But you promised that you would do me no harm/ 7 the
"Well, so I did," the snake replied "But when I promised
that, I was still in the tree. Now, I am on earth, and on earth
good is always repaid with evil."
The man thought frantically of a way to escape. "Very
well/' he said, "you may kill me. But first I want to hear the
opinion of three others, whom we may meet here in the
woods, as to the truth of what you say."
38 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
"Good; 7 said the snake. "Let us go."
The first thing they came to was a palm tree. "Ask the
palm tree/* ordered the snake.
"Palm tree," the man explained, "just a little while ago I
saved the life of this snake, and now it wants to kill me be-
cause, it says, here on earth good is always rewarded with evil.
Is that true?"
"Certainly it is true," the palm tree said. "Look at me.
With my waving fronds I refresh the wanderers who creep to
me, tired and worn out; I let them sleep in my shade. And
after they are refreshed, they hack me into little pieces with
their sharp axes and throw me into the fire."
"Do you hear what the palm tree says?" asked the snake,
twisting itself still tighter about the man's throat.
They went a little farther, until they came to a brook. The
man told the brook how he had saved the life of the snake
and how it wanted to kill him because on earth good is always
repaid with evil.
"The snake is right," chattered the brook. "Just look at
me. With my water, I revive all who come to me tired and
thirsty. And after they have quenched their thirst, they repay
me by throwing into my crystal-clear water all kinds of un-
clean things. You will have to let yourself be throttled by the
snake, because here on earth good is always rewarded with
And to the snake, "Go ahead, snake, and throttle the man
who saved your life!"
The snake twined itself still tighter around the man's neck,
until he almost suffocated. Gasping for breath, he cried, "Don't
kill me yet, O snake! Ask a third opinion. Then you may
The Clever Squirrel 39
"Very well/' said the snake, looking at a little squirrel that
sat on one of the branches of a tree.
The man also saw the squirrel. "Let us ask him what he
thinks/' he said to the snake.
"Ask him, then/' the snake said, "because I'm in a hurry
to throttle you before I take the squirrel as my prey."
"Little squirrel/' the man said, "I saved the life of this
snake, and now it wants to kill me because, as it says, here
on earth good is always rewarded with evil. Is that true?"
The squirrel looked first at the snake and then at the man.
"Well, that is very difficult to decide. I ought to see first how
the whole thing happened. For I really don't know just how
you saved the life of the snake. You must show me that first.
Only then can I give you my decision."
"I'll certainly let you see how it went/' said the snake.
They all returned to the tree where the man had first seen
the snake, and while it crept up the trunk toward the split
branch the man took his lance and struck the snake dead!
AN OLD SUMATRAN LEGEND
HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of years ago in Sumatra a little vil-
lage lay on the bank of a swift-flowing river. On the other side
of the river was a dense forest, and in the center of this forest
lived a tapa or hermit. He was an old man; for many years
his home had been a rocky cave hidden under palm leaves.
He had lived on the fruits of the trees and the nearby fields,
and was friendly with all the animals in the woods, even with
But it came to pass that there was a bad drought. The fruits
withered on the trees and shrank to dry husks in the fields.
The hermit could find nothing to eat, and he couldn't pos-
sibly kill any of his animal friends. So, at last, he made him-
self a small boat out of a tree trunk, rowed across the river,
and asked the people of the little village to give him a hand-
ful of rice to still his hunger.
They gave him half a coconut-shell full of rice and he
thanked them. "Someday I hope to return this rice to you
twofold/' he said.
The man who had handed it to him laughed. "Never mind/'
he said. "That won't be necessary."
But when the old hermit came again to ask for a handful
of rice, and when he came still another day for another hand-
ful of rice, the villagers began to be annoyed. "We can't give
you any more/' they said. "We don't have too much to eat
ourselves." And the man who had given him the first half
a coconut-shell of rice, said crossly, "Why don't you get a rice
field for yourself, and then return some of the rice you've
The old hermit turned and left them, still hungry. He sat
down on the edge of the river and thought of what the man
had said to him.
As he sat there a little boat drew alongside. "Why do you
look so pained, old man?" the helmsman leaned out to ask.
"I haven't eaten anything since yesterday," the hermit an-
swered. "And the people of the village, who have been feed-
ing me for a while, have told me they will not give me any
more rice." He sighed. "They say that I must begin my own
paddy. But how shall I find a suitable place in the forest to
plant? And who will give me the young rice stalks to set out?
I don't have even a single rice grain."
"That I can give you," the helmsman said. He took up a
little bag that lay beside him on the deck. "Cut down some
42 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
trees near your hut, and make a paddy in the clearing. If you
work hard and take good care of the plants, these grains should
bring you luck/'
Without another word, the man sprang into his boat and
sailed on. The hermit stared at the rice kernels so mysteriously
given to him. He tied them in a palm leaf, tucked the leaf
in his belt, and rowed back to the other shore. That very day
he began to cut down trees, although his hunger made him
weak. He started with the trees close to his hut, and kept on
chopping until nightfall. Each day, he cut down a few more
trees, until finally there was an open space big enough to culti-
vate as a rice field. All this time he lived on herbs and leaves
from the trees.
The fallen trees dried quickly in the hot sun, and when the
first rains fell the hermit could start sowing in the loose earth.
The young plants, set in neat rows, grew rapidly; the stalks
reached upward, the ears formed and turned yellow, and
sooner than usual the grain was ready to cut.
And now the hermit found, to his amazement, that no
matter how much rice he cut in the paddy, it immediately
grew again, and there was still the same amount to cut. He
was never done.
Delighted that he could give back all the rice he had bor-
rowed, and more too, he got into his little boat and rowed
over to the village. He begged the people to come and see his
marvelous sawah for themselves. Everyone, he said, should
bring a big basket and feel free to fill it with the wonderful
Nobody believed him when he said that no matter how
much he cut, new rice grew in its place. Still, they all went
across the river, most of them in hollowed-out logs, some
swimming, some in little boats; but all of them went. How-
An Old Sumatran Legend 43
ever, nobody took a basket because nobody thought the hermit
was telling the truth.
The villagers followed him to the paddy. The hermit took
his knife and cut the fine rice stalks, and instantly, in their
place, new ones sprang up, just as full of ripe grains. He did
this over and over, moving down the neat rows, almost lost
under the towering, waving stalks. Now that they had seen
the miracle with their own eyes, the people hurried back to
their village to hunt the biggest containers they could find.
They snatched up huge baskets woven of bamboo, and enor-
mous water vessels, and any likely looking thing, so that they
could bring back as much rice as possible. One man even
brought a huge shed, woven of fibers, because he couldn't find
a basket that he thought was big enough.
"What are you doing with that shed?" the old hermit
asked in astonishment.
"I'm going to fill it with rice, of course," the greedy man
replied, and he began to scoop up what the hermit cut.
By the time the shed was filled to the top, no one could
possibly move it down to the river's edge. That made the
greedy man despair, and the hermit felt sorry for him. So he
wove him a stout basket of wood fibers to hold the rice.
"Leave the shed here/ 7 he said, "as an offering to the gods."
Every day the village people crossed the swift river in their
little boats, walked to the paddy, and filled their baskets and
vessels to overflowing with the rice that the old hermit cut for
them. Finally the tapa grew weary. His back hurt and his arm
was tired. He threw down his knife and cried, "Oh, stop grow-
ing, you wretched rice!"
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the beau-
tiful ripe ears of grain withered and sank into the earth; in
their place, in the flash of an eye, sprang up the long, sharp
44 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
blades of the alang-alang grass. It shot up foot by foot as he
watched, and soon the paddy was changed into a wilderness.
Just as this happened, the villagers returned once more
with their baskets and jars and vessels. When they saw how
the paddy had been transformed, they rushed madly to the
shed whose roof they could just glimpse above the tall blades
of alang-alang. They fought their way to the shed, because
they knew it was filled to the brim with rice as an offering to
But when they reached it, their cries filled the air. For the
big shed and all it contained was now only a towering rock!
THE HOLY MOUNTAIN
THE POWERFUL GIANT who had ruled over Smeru, Indra's holy
mountain, ever since the world began had a beautiful daughter
wham he loved more than all his other possessions. He loved
her so much that he watched over her day and night, and kept
her hidden from all eyes. But one morning, when he went to
make the rounds of his underground realm, as was his custom,
his little daughter had a sudden desire to go and see just
once how the world outside her father's kingdom looked.
And so she left the mountain and went up on the earth.
At first the strong daylight blinded her eyes so that she
could not see; but as she grew accustomed to it she gazed
around her and she was enchanted with all she saw. She
walked on and on, with her light, quick steps. It was almost
as if she floated over the beautiful rice fields, and over the
lovely meadows where the goats grazed. When she came to a
field of grain she suddenly saw a man standing in front of
her. He looked somewhat like her father, but he was younger
and handsomer than the old mountain giant. And the young
man said to her in a soft and friendly voice, "Who are you?"
The young girl had never heard any voice except the loud,
rumbling one of her father, and she was so charmed with the
46 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
way the young giant said these few simple words that she
told him she was Dewi Jurangga, the beloved only child of
the mighty giant of the Smeru. She told him, too, that she
had left her father's realm for the first time, and that every-
thing she had seen this morning seemed so lovely that she
would like to dwell on earth forever, even if she had to give
up the immortality of the gods which would have been hers.
"Are you one of the gods, or are you a giant?" she asked.
"I am a giant's son," the young man said, "and I am the
raksasa or guardian of the great temple of the gods. Brahma
himself appointed me. My father is also a great and powerful
giant; he is almost as mighty as your father. His name is
Bromo." The raksasa went on to tell her that he was on his
way to search for a wife. The gods had told him that he would
find a beautiful young girl near one of the mountains. "And
now I have found her!" he cried happily.
But Dewi Jurangga looked at him sadly and shook her head.
"I can never be your wife," she said. "You see, my father loves
me above everything else. He guards me as the light of his
eyes; and he will never, never consent that I be the wife of a
raksasa, and certainly not of one who is a son of Bromo."
The raksasa looked at her in astonishment. "Why not?"
"Because," the young girl answered simply, "y ur father,
Bromo, has sent devastating fires and streams of boiling lava
from his mountain to flow over the fertile fields that border
on our mountain. In one night he changed them to an arid
plain. And that is why my father is an enemy of Bromo."
"Nevertheless, I am going to speak to your father," the rak-
sasa said. And that very day, before the sun went down, he
went to Indra's holy mountain and spoke with the mighty
The Holy Mountain 47
mountain giant, asking if he might have Dewi Jurangga as
The mountain giant roared with rage that a raksasa should
dare speak like that to him; and he roared even louder when
Dewi Jurangga said that if her father would not consent to
their marriage, she would go to his enemy, Bromo, and throw
herself into the pool of fire on his mountain.
But when the mountain giant had roared himself out, he
began to fear that, if he refused to let Dewi Jurangga become
the raksasa's wife, Bromo might be so angry that he would
send more fire and lava over his fertile fields and that he
might also take Dewi Jurangga as a sacrifice if she threw her-
self into the pool of fire.
So he said to the raksasa, "Listen to me, favorite of the great
Brahma. Many years ago I promised the gods that my child
should be given in marriage only to a being with supernatu-
ral powers and strength; no giant's son, but a son of the gods,
must be her husband. And, in order that I may know if he is
really a son of the gods, he must make a sea of sand around
my enemy, Bromo, in one night that is, between the time
the sun sets and the time the first cock crows. It must be a
sea of sand a thousand feet deep and a thousand feet wide,
so that fire cannot harm my fields any more and so that
streams of boiling lava will be quenched in the sand. If you
can do that in one night, you may have my daughter as your
wife. But if the sea of sand is not finished when the first cock
crows, then you shall be turned to stone and you shall remain
so for a thousand times a thousand years."
The raksasa thought about this for a while and then he
lifted up his head and looked at the lovely face of the giant's
daughter and said, "I will try to do this, oh great and mighty
40 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
ruler of India's holy mountain! Tomorrow evening, when the
sun goes down, I will begin my task. 7 '
And he said to Dewi Jurangga, "Bring me the very biggest
batok (half a coconut-shell) that you can find, and lay it on
the spot where we first met."
The following evening, shortly before the sun went down,
Dewi Jurangga brought the raksasa the batok. "Do your best/'
she whispered to him. "Show your power, and we shall be
happy forever after/'
The raksasa took the batok out of her little hands, and said
earnestly, "I will prove myself, kembang manis (lovely
And as soon as the sun had disappeared below the horizon
he began to fill the batok with sand. He threw the sand into
piles that became mounds, and mounds that became hills.
He scooped up the sand around the mountain Bromo, nor
did he pay any attention when Bromo shouted at him and
threw red-hot rocks of lava at him. He went right on with his
scooping, coconut-shell after coconut-shell full of sand. He
worked all night with such furious energy that, when it was
almost morning, he had made a sea of sand around Bromo
that was nine hundred and ninety feet wide and nine hun-
dred and ninety feet deep.
"Just ten more feet to fill, before the sun comes up," he
panted, "and then. * . ." And the raksasa took up his batok
again and filled it with sand.
Now the giant of Smeru, Indra's holy mountain, was watch-
ing, with his giant's eyes that could pierce the deepest darkness,
to see how the raksasa was getting on with his tremendous
task. When he realized that the work would be finished before
daybreak, and that he would have to give his beloved daugh-
ter to the raksasa, he was beside himself with anger. For, of
course, he would have to keep his promise.
Just then the raksasa threw another batok of sand, with a
noise like thunder, onto the mounds that were already so
high. This made the mountain giant even angrier. "Just a few
more feet, and the work will be done/' he muttered. "And it
is still a long time till daybreak!" Wait . . . Was that the
crow of a cock that he heard? No, it was only his imagination.
He heard nothing but the scooping up of sand! But he began
to think, what if he himself should imitate the crowing of the
cock. After all, it was to save his child! And he was a giant, a
demigod; he could do anything he wished.
"Kukeleku," he cried suddenly.
"Kukeleku." the cocks in the various villages answered him.
The cocks had crowed! The day had begun!
And the raksasa, who still had three feet to fill, heard the
sound with fear and anger. Furiously he balled his fist; furi-
ously he took the batok filled with sand and threw it from
50 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
him. Upside down, with its round part on top, the batok
lay in the deep place that he had scooped out around the
Bromo; and there it remained forever, as a high mountain,
which people called the Batok.
But as soon as the raksasa had thrown down the batok, he
heard a penetrating scream. Looking up he saw Dewi }u-
rangga, staring at him with her great dark eyes, her hair
streaming about her. "Kembang Manis! Kembang!" he cried
to her sadly. "Lovely flower! All my work has been for noth-
But the beautiful young daughter of the mountain giant
did not answer him. She had been turned to stone from hor-
ror; she had been changed into a mountain. And people
called it the Kembang, after the last, loving word that the
raksasa had said to her. For he, too, was turned to stone, just
as the mountain giant had prophesied he would be if he did
not finish his gigantic task before the beginning of the day.
He, too, became a mountain the Segarawedi.
The mountain giant received his punishment, too. In the
end, he punished himself. He was so afraid of Brahma's anger
that he hid himself in the depths of the Smeru, and there he
still sits and sighs and moans over the two lives he ruined so
cruelly. With every sigh he expels a heavy cloud of smoke
that pushes through the top of the mountain and then spreads
over the sky in a beautiful white plume. And the mountain
giant must remain there, sighing and moaning and blowing
out smoke clouds, until the raksasa, now the Segarawedi, and
Dewi Jurangga, now the Kembang, return to their human
forms after a thousand times a thousand years; until the moun-
tain Bromo has sunk out of sight, and until the Sand Sea is
once more what it was in the beginning.
THE ORIGIN OF THE WATER JARS
RAJAH PAHIT was the son of one of the mightiest rulers of all
Java. One day he got into a game of dice and lost his money
and his costly ornaments of gold and silver and jewels. The
only things he had left were the heirlooms he had inherited
from his forebears, and these he had to take to the pawnshop
to pay his debts.
Losing his heirlooms, many of which had belonged to his
father, made the Rajah despair. He was afraid to tell his
father what he had done and so, one night, he fled the king-
dom with his wife and little two-year-old daughter. He had
no idea where to go, and wandered from place to place until,
weary of foot and weary of heart, he settled down on the
slope of the mountain Merbabu. There he lived for many
years a life of penance, praying and fasting, until Brahma took
pity on him.
One evening Rajah Pahit and his wife and their now
grown daughter Ruwana were sitting in front of their hut.
As always, the Rajah was softly saying his prayers, his head
sunk on his chest.
When he ceased praying for a moment, his wife said gently,
52 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
"Why don't you rest a while? You have prayed so long. Surely
Brahma must hear you soon!"
The Rajah did not look up as his wife spoke to him. He
merely shook his snow-white head. The white hair contrasted
strangely with his dark skin. Only his deep-set, brilliant eyes
showed that he was still a young man.
Now it happened that Brahma, who knows all, knew that
the Rajah Pahit was not a wicked man, but had just given in
to a momentary weakness. Brahma thought, I will help him;
he has suffered enough. The moon was shining brightly, and
it occurred to Brahma to call Kajangka, the ruler of the moon,
to him. "Take something to Rajah Pahit/' he said, "that will
make him rich again, so that he can get back all he lost in
his game of chance."
Kajangka had no desire to help the people of the earth, but
he had to do what Brahma had requested of him. And so,
the very next evening, he rode a moonbeam to earth. He set
himself down near the top of Merbabu, on a spot where he
could just see the bamboo hut of Rajah Pahit. And as he
glanced through an opening in one of the bamboo walls, he
saw the lovely Ruwana, a maiden as beautiful and radiant
as the sun.
No sooner had he seen Ruwana than he desired her as his
bride. Swiftly he changed himself into a handsome young
man, went into the hut, and asked Rajah Pahit to give him
his daughter in marriage.
"I am only a poor exile/' Rajah Pahit said haughtily, "but,
after all, I am not going to give my daughter to someone who
is of a lower caste than myself."
"I do not belong to a lower caste/' Kajangka said. "I have
been sent by Brahma. It is his desire that you become rich
so that you can buy back all the heirlooms that you had to
pawn. Listen!" He leaned close. "The Creator kneaded the
sun from a pile of clay. From what was left over, lie kneaded
the moon. But just before he began to knead the moon, I-
who had not yet drunk of the life-water and was only a mortal
wandering on the earth I took a piece of this clay and buried
it in Merbabu, the very mountain on which you're living.
Now if you will promise to give me your lovely daughter in
marriage, I will teach you the art of pottery-making!"
"Why should I learn pottery-making?" Rajah Pahit asked.
"So that you can become rich/' Kajangka answered im-
patiently. "So that you can buy back all the heirlooms you
had to pawn. I will teach you to make pottery of a most
special kind and shape. You shall make the pottery out of
this unusual clay, that I have buried here in the mountain,
and because it's the same clay out of which the moon was
kneaded, the pottery will be rare and costly/ 7
Rajah Pahit gave his lovely daughter Ruwana to the ruler
of the moon, and in return Kajangka taught him pottery-
making. The clay was inexhaustible, it seemed, and of a pecul-
54 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
iar whiteness. Kajangka decided that it should be made into
big water jars. Rajah Pahit helped him, and he was so clever
and quick that he learned pottery-making in one night.
Soon they had made so many water jars that the top of
Merbabu and even the tops of some smaller mountains nearby
were covered with them.
"What a quantity of water jars we have!" Kajangka cried
to his father-in-law one day. "I think we really ought to build
a wall around the tops of the mountains, because you never
can tell who might see these beautiful water jars and steal
them from us."
"That's a good idea/' Rajah Pahit said. "We'll begin at
They started to build a bamboo wall on the tops of the
mountains, so that the water jars would be hidden from view,
and only the gods could see them from their heaven.
Three mountain tops had been ringed with walls when
suddenly there was a violent thunderstorm, just above Mer-
babu. Rajah Pahit left his work and fled to his hut, and
Kajangka flew to the moon. After a while, when the storm
had abated somewhat and the two potters wanted to return
to their work, they saw, to their horror, that all the water jars
had disappeared from the mountains that had not yet been
fenced in at the top.
"No doubt they flew away because they were afraid of the
lightning," Rajah Pahit surmised. "But where in the world
could they be?"
"I don't know," Kajangka said. "But I do know that this
must be a sign from Brahma. He is telling us that all the
water jars that remain must be sold. And I must go back to
the gods' heaven, but I will take my wife with me."
At first Rajah Pahit grumbled at that, for he knew how
The Origin of the Water Jars 55
much he would miss his lovely daughter. But then he began
selling the handsome water jars, and soon he had so much
money that he could buy back his costly heirlooms, and re-
turn to his own kingdom, and his grief over the loss of his
daughter lessened. For he knew now that Ruwana had a good
life with Kajangka; he knew that because, when the moon was
full, he could see her laughing face.
But what happened to the water jars that disappeared?
Well, it's true that they fled because they were afraid of
the lightning. They not only fled from Java, but they flew as
far away as the island of Borneo. There they buried them-
selves deep in the dense and ancient forests. Surely, they
thought, no mortal could ever find them now.
However, the legend tells us, they were found, centuries
later by the natives of Borneo. And when the Dyaks learned
that these jars had been made of clay from which the sun
and the moon had been kneaded, they were overjoyed, for
they realized that to have a jar of such supernatural origin in
one's house would be a piece of wonderful good fortune. Sick-
ness and evil spirits would be banished from the neighbor-
hood of a house containing one of these jars.
And even today, having a jar of that kind in the house is
of the greatest importance. Not only does its presence banish
sickness and evil spirits, but it brings luck at harvest time and
in fishing, and it blesses a marriage.
The buying of a water jar, then, is an event to be celebrated.
In a house where a new water jar has been acquired, there is
feasting for seven days and seven nights. The Dyak priest-
esses sing and dance. And seven little figures, carved of iron-
wood, are set up at the doorway and remain there seven
months, so that whoever passes by may know that the people
who live in that house have bought a new water jar.
THE THREE COMPANIONS
EVERY YEAR Cholera made a visit to the Holy City of Mecca.
Her companions were always Death and Fear. One year it
happened that Fear came before Death and Cholera, and the
gatekeeper, who did not know her, let her go into the city.
When the other two appeared before the gate of the Holy
City, the watchman called angrily, "So! You come again to
bring sorrow and misery, do you? And how many victims are
you going to take this time, cursed Cholera?"
"Don't carry on so/ 7 Cholera said easily. "I imagine I won't
take more than five hundred."
"And you, dread Death," the gatekeeper cried, turning to
her. "How many people are you going to take out of the Holy
City to your kingdom?"
"Oh, Til take whatever Cholera gives me," Death answered
"Well," the gatekeeper muttered, "go in. But watch out,
Cholera, that you take no more than five hundred victims!
You promised! And you, Death, don't you dare to take more
than Cholera gives you!"
"Gatekeeper," they said together, "you can rely on our
The Three Companions 57
word." And side by side they passed through the opened gate
and into the Holy City.
Long weeks they remained in the city, and then they called
to the gatekeeper to open the gates again.
"Hmm," the gatekeeper muttered, "how many victims do
you take, Cholera?"
"I did my best not to go beyond the promised number/'
Cholera answered. "And so I am taking no more than four
hundred and ninety/'
"Now, that sounds as if you're speaking the truth," the
gatekeeper decided. He turned toward Death. "And you,
Death, how many are you taking with you?"
"Oh, I am taking more than a thousand with me," Death
answered at once.
The gatekeeper was horrified. "How can that be?" he cried
in astonishment. "Cholera herself said she is taking only four
hundred and ninety!"
"Yes," Death answered, "that is what Cholera is taking.
But most of those who died were taken by Fear, who came
unnoticed through your gate. One day you will know, old
man, that our sister Fear does more harm and causes more
deaths than Cholera!"
FIRE, WATER, AND HONOR
ONCE UPON A TIME Fire, Water, and Honor were going on a
journey together. They wanted to see something more of the
world than the high mountains and the old cities full of
temples and the palm trees.
While they were walking, and talking of this and that, the
question came up of how they would ever find each other
again if one of them should happen to be lost.
"Why, that would be easy enough," Fire said. "After all,
wherever you see smoke spiraling in the air, there you will
"And I," Water said, "could be found easily, too. Wherever
there are seas and rivers, brooks and ponds, there I will be."
They turned toward Honor. "And where would you be found,
"I think," Honor said slowly, "that you would never be
able to find me again once you had lost me."
The two others would not believe that. So they talked of
other things as they walked along. Soon they came to a cross-
roads. Fire went to the right, Water to the left, and Honor-
Honor suddenly disappeared.
Fire, Water, and Honor 59
In his wanderings, Fire came to the house of a mortal.
There Water finally found him, and as soon as he found him
he almost extinguished Fire. Fire was so glad to see his friend
again that he cried, "Now let us take to the road again and
A little bit of Fire, which had not been put out by Water,
went with Water in search of their friend, Honor. They
searched for him in the villages and in the towns, and when
they could not find him there, they went to the high moun-
tains and to the deep valleys, and when they did not find him
there, they went to the seas and to the rivers.
"We've looked everywhereexcept in the forests/' Water
said to Fire.
"You're right/' Fire answered. "Well, then, let's search for
him in the forests."
So they went to the dark, thick forests and searched for
Honor among the great trees, in the dim, frightening light.
In the middle of one of these forests lived a hermit who was
blind. Fire and Water hunted up this old man and asked him
if, at some time or other, he had ever met Honor in the woods.
"Honor?" the hermit repeated. "Why are you hunting for
"Well," Fire said, "weWater and I started on a journey
with him, and on the way somehow we lost him. So we have
taken to the road again to find him."
The blind old hermit shook his head sadly. "You lost Honor
on your journey," he said. "And whoever loses Honor shall
never find him again. For you see, Honor is like the light
of a man's eyes. That, too, you never get back once you have
Now, for the first time, Fire and Water believed the words
60 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
that Honor had spoken to them so long ago. They knew that
it was useless to hunt further, and they returned to the home
of the mortal. There Fire burned, and Water evaporated. And
that, says the story, is because they had lost Honor and could
never find him again.
THE SAGA OF THE WARU WANGGI
BEHIND A CERTAIN VILLAGE in Java there stands a mountain,
and on this mountain grows a tree called the warn. From the
wood of this tree the natives cut their lance shafts, and a Java-
nese man holds the wara tree in great esteem because he be-
lieves that if his lance has a shaft of the waru wood he will
have no trouble in overcoming his enemies. The reason lie
believes this is told in a very old story.
The name of the mountain meant "fragrant" that is, a
place with an air of holiness about it. And men called the
mountain holy because in its caverns lived many hermits.
Among these hermits were some who possessed supernatu-
ral powers. One of the hermits was a very old and pious and
wise man. They called him Kawitjaksana which means "her-
mit full of wisdom." People came from far places to hear his
words, and ask for his advice because it was always good.
The old man lived in poverty. He wore a garment woven of
bark, tied around his waist with strong plant fibers, and he
ate only the fruits and herbs that he found in the woods and
on the mountain. When he had fasted two days and was
almost a skeleton, he would fast still a third and even a fourth
day. Moreover, he lived like a hermit: He did not speak with
02 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
the other hermits, but only to Brahma, the Creator, and with
the people who came to him for advice on matters that
The other hermits, many of whom did not lead pious lives,
after a time became jealous of the way people preferred this
kindly, simple man to themselves. In their unreasoning jeal-
ousy they plagued the gentle, grey-haired tapa in all kinds of
evil ways; finally the poor old man could not come outside
his cave without being hit by rotten fruit and wounded by
stones thrown by the other hermits.
This went on for a long time. Still the old hermit did not
moan over his lot, nor did he protest that people of his own
caste were making life unbearable for him. The tapa did not
ask for help from any of the gods nor from Brahma, the
It happened that at this time no waru trees grew on the
holy mountain. It was bare except for great stones, and its
sides were cleft by deep fissures and caves, and the nearest
village was far away. That was why the villagers had no idea
of what the poor old hermit had to endure.
It came to pass that the hermit, having fasted for two days,
was driven by hunger to come out of his cave to hunt for
something to eat. As he was walking feebly along a ravine,
where he was accustomed to gathering roots and herbs, some
of the other hermits saw him. At a sign from one of the most
villainous, they fell upon the pious man and rushed him
toward the edge of the ravine, to throw him down onto the
sharp, pointed stones that lay at the bottom.
The tapa knew that his enemies wanted to kill him, and
that he would surely die if they threw him over the cliff.
He had never asked anything of Brahma but now he sent
up a fervent prayer to the Creator to give him a sign, some-
thing that might save him from his enemies.
Even as he prayed, an enormous snake fell at the feet of
the hermits. At first they shrank back, frightened, but when
they saw what it was, they cried, "Oh, it's only a snake! What
do we have to fear from a snake? If it's a poisonous one, it
can't harm uswe're holy men!" With that they grabbed the
old tapa and pushed him closer to. the edge of the cliff.
At that instant the snake, sent by Brahma, flung up its head
and planted its tail in the loose earth so that it stood upright
between the pious tapa and his enemies.
They fell back in astonishment, and before their eyes the
snake began to change into a tree. The head split into many
branches, and each drop of the snake's venom became thick
leaves. When the hermits saw this, they understood at last
64 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
the power of the wise old tapa. They bowed low before him,
then one of them rose and cut a branch from the tree, fash-
ioning it into a lance shaft which he presented to the grey-
haired tapa, saying, "May the lance which this shaft shall hold
kill all of us, if we ever forget to honor you as the bravest,
wisest and mightiest of hermits!"
Now, as the man spoke these words, another miracle took
place. For as soon as the old tapa grasped the shaft, it sud-
denly acquired a fine-pointed lance. The other hermits bowed
still lower in homage before their mighty brother, and they
cried, "Now we have seen that you are high, high above us,
that you are truly one of Brahma's chosen!"
And even now, after all this time, when new waru trees
rise from the earth on the holy mountain, people greet their
appearance with joy because they know that they have grown
out of the snake that Brahma sent to save the life of
That is why the Javanese still say that lance shafts cut from
the wood of the waru wanggi can do wonderful things, espe-
cially if carried in battle. For whoever carries a lance with a
shaft of waru wood will surely overcome all his enemies.
IN THE LONG AGO DAYS when animals could talk, a boar and
an antelope were friends. They had not seen each other for
some time when they met one day and the boar said, "I'm
sorry to tell you, but you are going to be eaten by me/'
The antelope started in surprise. "But how can that be?"
he asked in puzzlement. "We have always been friends. Why
should you suddenly want to eat me?"
"It isn't that I want to/' the boar replied, f< but I dreamed
that I would eat you, so it must be so/'
The antelope thought this over. "I see what you mean, but
I should like to put the question to the king. After all, such a
thing should not happen without the king's approval. Do
"Let us go/' the boar answered. "I know I am right, but I
am willing to let the king hear the case."
So they went along the road together to the king's palace.
Now they did not know that an ape had been sitting in a
tree while they talked, and had heard everything. Out of curi-
osity he went along, too leaping from tree branch to tree
branch very quietly. They did not know he was keeping pace
66 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
with them, and when they reached the king, who was holding
court out of doors, the ape hid himself in a tall tree, the better
to see and hear.
"I have come, O king," the antelope said, "because my
friend the boar tells me that he will have to eat me/'
The king looked from one to the other. "And you are his
friend?' 7 he asked the boar.
"True," the boar replied.
"Then why must you eat your friend?"
"Because I dreamed it," the boar answered, "and if I
dreamed it, it must come to pass."
The king said thoughtfully, "Yes, that is so. If you dreamed
it, it must come to pass. It is unfortunate, but there is nothing
I can do."
There was a sudden rustling in the tree above them, and
the ape made a flying leap to the ground, landing almost at
the feet of the king.
The king was startled and angry. "What do you mean,
frightening us like that? What are you doing here, ape?"
The ape answered promptly, "Well, I dreamed that I was
to marry your daughter, O king, so I have come to get her."
The king rose from his chair. "Begone! How dare you say
a thing like that?"
"I dreamed it. I am to marry your daughter."
"It is impossible!" The king shouted so loudly that the
leaves shook on the trees. "I will not hear of it! It is impossi-
ble, I say!"
"No," the ape returned calmly, "it is possible. Have you not
just said that the antelope must be eaten by the boar because
the boar dreamed it? If that is possible, then it is possible
that I will marry your daughter because I dreamed it."
The king sat down again, and was silent for a long time.
They could tell that he was thinking. Everyone waited for
his words . . . but, most of all, the antelope waited.
Then the king held up his hand. "Let it be known, every-
where and at once, that the decision I rendered cannot be
carried out The antelope will not be eaten by the boar. For
now Ihave learned that the possible can be impossible, and
the impossible remains impossible, whether one dreams it or
THREE TALES OF THE MOUSE-DEER
ONE OF THE FAVORITE animals in Indonesia is the delicate little
mouse-deer, or kanchil. He is so tiny and quick and alert that
people have made him the hero of any number of stories.
Here are three of them. The first one is from Java.
It was a hot day in the forest and the kantjil had just found
a quiet shady spot for a rest when he heard a tiger approach-
ing. He knew that the tiger would want to kill and eat him,
and he had to think fast. When the tiger poked his head
through the tall grasses, the mouse-deer was fanning a pile
of rotting leaves with a large palm leaf.
The tiger was curious and came closer. "What are you
doing?" he asked.
"I am guarding the king's food/' the mouse-deer answered.
"This is very special food, and only for the king. I have to
take good care of it."
"Royal food!" the tiger cried. "I should like to taste it."
"Oh, that's impossible/ 7 the kanchil said, fanning busily
Three Tales of the Mouse-Deer 69
to keep the flies off. "Only the king may eat of this food"
"But couldn't I try it just once?"
The kanchil shook his head.
"Just one bite?" the tiger begged. "I'm hungry, but I prom-
ise to take only one bite/'
"WeU"--the mouse-deer pretended to think hard "maybe
just one bite/' The tiger came closer. "No, no! Wait! You
mustn't taste it till I've gone. After all, I feel badly about
betraying my trust. I was to guard this food for the king. And
I wouldn't want any blame to attach to me/'
The tiger nodded, his eyes on the king's food. He began
to lick his lips.
"Wait till I give you the word/' the kanchil insisted, and
the tiger promised.
The mouse-deer ran swiftly into the forest, and when lie
was a safe distance from the tiger he called, "You may taste
The tiger fell upon the royal food. One bite and he dis-
covered that it wasn't something special and delicious. It was
only rotting leaves. He spat it out, and with a mighty growl
he started after the mouse-deer. "I'll get you!" he shouted.
"Wait till I find you! I'll tear you into bits!"
The mouse-deer, meanwhile, had scurried on, hunting
safety. But there was no place to hide, and he knew he would
have to rely on his wits. So he searched till he found a great
snake, coiled up asleep, and sat down beside it. He had no
sooner sat down than he heard the tiger crashing through the
trees, growling as he came.
"You miserable wretch!" the tiger snarled, showing his red
gums and his sharp white teeth. "I'll eat you alive! Fooling me
"But I didn't fool you," the kanchil said innocently. "I told
70 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
you not to eat it. I told you it was the king's food and that
I was not supposed to let anyone have it! But you insisted/ 7
"The awful stuff !" the tiger muttered, shaking his great
head from side to side. "I can't get the taste out of my mouth.
You'll pay for this!"
"You mustn't blame me," the kanchil cried. "I warned you.
But do keep quiet. I'm guarding the king's girdle."
The tiger came closer. "What's so wonderful about that?"
he asked, peering at the coiled snake.
"It's the king's girdle/' the kanchil repeated. "And I feel
honored that he trusts me to guard it."
"Because it's full of magic power/' the mouse-deer said,
with an important air. "Whoever wears it can have whatever
he wishes. So of course only the king may wear it."
The tiger's eyes grew bright. "Magic power! I have a wish
that I'd like to have granted. Let me try it on ... just once,
just for a moment."
"Oh, I couldn't do that!" the mouse-deer said in a shocked
"The king need never know/' the tiger wheedled. "Just let
me have it for a moment."
"Well" the mouse-deer pretended to be reluctant "per-
haps just for a moment " But as the tiger came closer he
cried, "No, no! Wait! You mustn't try it on till I have gone.
For, of course, no blame must attach to me, and I must not
see you pick it up."
"Well, get on, then," the tiger said impatiently. "I can
scarcely wait to get my wish."
The mouse-deer leaped nimbly through the forest and when
he was a long distance away he called back, "Now you may try
Three Tales of the Mouse-Deer 71
The tiger eagerly tried to pick up what he thought was the
magic girdle, but as soon as he touched it the snake woke with
a hiss and bit the tiger while it wound itself around his body.
The tiger, taken by surprise, had to fight hard to loosen the
coils of the angry snake, and it was only after a long, hard
struggle that he was able to kill it.
Now he was so furious that he could scarcely see. He
charged through the jungle to find the mouse-deer. 'Til have
my revenge!" he shouted and all the jungle creatures shook to
hear his bellow. "Wait till I find you, kanchil! I'll make you
sorry you ever tried to trick me!"
The mouse-deer heard him and trembled where he sat, half-
hidden near a tall clump of bamboo. Before the tiger could
open his mouth, the kanchil said, in a joyful voice, "Oh, there
you are again! Look, IVe been appointed to take care of the
king's trumpet! A wonderful instrument!"
"What's so wonderful about it?" the tiger muttered, coming
closer. He was still smarting with anger, and his wounds hurt.
"Oh, IVe never tried it, of course," the kanchil said hur-
riedly. "It's much too fine for anyone like me. But I've been
told," he said, lowering his voice, "that if you put your tongue
between these" he waved toward two of the tallest bamboos
"and wait till the wind blows, they give out the most beau-
"That sounds interesting," the tiger mumbled. "IVe always
fancied myself as a musician. Fd like to try it."
"But not anyone can play it!" the mouse-deer said, horri-
fied. "If s the king's trumpet, don't you understand? Only the
king can play it. And he has set me to guard it for him."
"Nonsense," said the tiger. "How will he ever know? Fin
sure I could play it."
"Well," the mouse-deer said slowly, "If you want to try. ...
J2 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
But I would feel dreadful if anything happened to the royal
instrument. So you must promise to let me get safely away
before you begin. I wouldn't want any blame to attach to me."
"Hurry up, then/' the tiger said, his eyes fastened on what
he thought was the king's trumpet. "What did you say I must
"Put your tongue between the two tallest reeds. And be
sure to wait till the wind blows!"
The mouse-deer scurried away. The tiger, his eyes aglitter,
put his tongue between the two tall bamboos which grew very
close together, and waited. And after a while a strong gust of
wind came, and shook the bamboos, and the tiger let out a cry
of rage and pain. For his tongue, caugjit between the reeds,
had been pinched off!
Now he bellowed with fury and bounded through the jungle
to find the mouse-deer. He tore through the underbrush,
hardly able to see for pain. At last he found the kanchil stand-
ing beside a great wasp's nest. He tried to say, "What are you
The mouse-deer said, "I can't understand you. . . . Oh, you
mean, what am I doing here? I'm guarding tihe king's drum.
Isn't it beautiful? And strange-looking, too. Of course, it would
be strange-looking. It's not an ordinary drum, you see. It's a
magic drum. And only the king may play it."
The tiger made gurgling sounds and the mouse-deer said,
"You mean, you want to try it?"
The tiger nodded, his eyes blood-red.
"I don't think I could let you do that." The mouse-deer
acted as if he were thinking hard, "It wouldn't be right."
But as the tiger came closer and he could feel the hot breath
on his face, he said, "Well You might try it, just once. But
only if you let me get away from here first. I've been set to
74 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
guard this wonderful drum, and I wouldn't want any blame to
attach to me in case something happened to it."
The tiger nodded, and the kanchil started to run. "Just strike
it once/' he said. "When I give you the word. It has such a
wonderful tone that no one could bear to hear it more than
The tiger was impatient. "All right, I'm going," the mouse-
deer said hurriedly, and he leaped away through the under-
brush. When he was safely out of sight he called, "Now!"
And the tiger struck the nest with his great paw. A cloud of
wasps, angry at being disturbed, flew out and swarmed around
his head. They stung him on the nose and the ears and on the
sides and on his legs; they even stung his tail. The tiger ran
madly through the jungle, blind with rage and pain. He ran
and ran until he found a pool of water; he plunged in it and
was never seen again.
The mouse-deer lay under a palm tree and fanned himself.
"Well," he sighed,, "it was hard, but it was worth it. I may be
small, but I'm clever. Now he'll never bother me any more/'
This tale comes from Borneo.
"I am going fishing," the mouse-deer said one day.
"Fd like to go along," the tortoise said, creeping up.
"And I," said the ape.
"May I go, too?" the elephant begged. "I've always wanted
to go fishing."
The mouse-deer said they might all accompany him, and
they trooped through the jungle to the river. Between them
they caught a great many fishtoo many to eat right away, and
the mouse-deer decided that they ought to smoke some of the
fish, in case they got hungry later in the season.
Three Tales of the Mouse-Deer 75
They built a big fire on the banks of the river and smoked
most of the fish they had caught Next day they decided to go
fishing again, but the mouse-deer said, "Somebody has to stay
here while we're away, to watch the drying fish."
"Very well/' said the elephant. "I'll stay. No one would
dare to steal our fish while Fm on guard/'
So the elephant stayed behind. But while he was sitting near
the drying fish there was a great crashing in the jungle and out
walked an enormous giant who came up, ate fee fish, and
walked off again. The elephant was so frightened that he could
do nothing, and when the others came back he told them
what had happened.
"You were certainly a fine guard!" his companions jeered.
"Do you mean to say you let that giant steal our fish without
so much as saying a word?"
"If you had seen him" the elephant began. But the others
laughed, though they were upset because their fish had been
stolen, and all their work had gone for nothing. They had a
big catch again this evening, so they decided to have a nice
supper, and smoke the rest of the fish to take home with them.
When the fish were drying next morning they set off, but first
they voted that the ape should stay behind to guard their store.
The ape climbed a tree where he could see over the land-
scape. It was quiet and peaceful and he had almost fallen
asleep when suddenly there was a tremendous noise and
through the underbrush came the giant who walked up to the
pile of drying fish, ate them all, and went away.
The ape was so terrified he could not let out even a small
screech, and he was still twittering with fear when the others
returned with another fine catch of fish.
When the rest of the party heard what had happened, they
were angry. "Somebody has got to stop this thief," they said,
76 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
It was the tortoise who volunteered to stay this time. "I'll keep
an eye on our fish/ 7 he said. "No one will be able to get close
enough to eat them/'
But watch though he did, never closing an eye, he could not
prevent the giant from consuming all their fish again that day.
"This has got to stop/' the mouse-deer said. "None of you
knows what to do. I'm surprised at you. Now it's my turn. I
should have stayed the very first day; then nothing like this
would have happened/'
In spite of their worry and fear, the other animals laughed
at the boasting of the little mouse-deer. "If we couldn't stop
the giant, what do you think you could do?" they taunted.
"You're so small, how do you think you could get the better
"I don't know, but I think I could," the mouse-deer said.
"Anyhow, let's dry the fish again, and I'll stay tomorrow while
you go fishing. We must have something to take home with
As soon as the fishermen had left the next morning, the
mouse-deer hunted up four stout posts which he set into the
ground. Then he searched for some rattan and wove the
strands into four strong rings. It wasn't long before there was
a crashing and thrashing in the jungle, and the giant appeared
again. The mouse-deer kept right on working, plaiting the rat-
tan into rings.
The giant was very curious. "What are you doing?" he
"Oh, I have some friends who suffer from bad pains in their
backs," the mouse-deer said, never looking up. "I know a
remedy for pains in the back and I am making it now."
"Very interesting," said the giant in a voice that fairly shook
the earth. "Very interesting. You see, I suffer from pains in
the back, myself. Do you think you could cure me?"
Three Tales of the Mouse-Deer 77
"I'm sure I could. This remedy never fails/' the mouse-deer
said. He stood up. "Go over there and lie down."
The giant lay down on the earth. "Now put your elbows
close to your sides, and pull your knees up to your chest," said
The giant did so. "What are you going to do now?"
'Til massage you/' the mouse-deer said, "and put on the
He ran around the giant and slipped the rattan rings over
his arms and legs and pulled them tight. Then he fastened the
rings to the strong posts. The giant began to eye the mouse-
deer warily. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"Yes, indeed Wait just a minute and you'll see/ 7 the
mouse-deer replied, and walked away.
The giant tried to get up to go after him, but he could not
rise. The more he struggled, the tighter he drew the rattan
bonds and they held him fast. He shouted and growled and
rumbled and roared, but he could not break loose.
When the fishermen came back, bringing the biggest catch
they had ever had, they found the little mouse-deer sitting
quietly beside a tree, with the bound and furious giant lying
near him, still struggling.
Now that the giant was trapped they had no trouble in kill-
ing him. They all marveled at the mouse-deer's feat. "Haw did
you ever do it?" they asked.
"Well," the mouse-deer said, "when you're small and weak,
you have to use your brain."
One day a mouse-deer was running through the forest when
he fell into a deep pit that was covered over with leaves. He
struggled mightily to climb up the muddy sides of the pit, only
to fall back again to the bottom. He leaped into the air until
78 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
he was exhausted. In despair, he crouched in a comer, trying
to think what he could do.
Just then an elephant came by and peered into the pit.
"Why, what are you doing down there?' 7 he asked in surprise.
The mouse-deer said quickly, "Oh, I got word that the sky
will soon fall, and that all the creatures in the forest will be
crushed to death. So I climbed down here to save myself."
"The sky's going to fall?" the elephant repeated in alarm.
The mouse-deer nodded. "And all of you will be crushed to
"When will it happen?" the elephant asked.
"Very soon now."
"Let me come down there with you," the elephant begged.
"I don't want to be killed."
The mouse-deer appeared to think this over. "There's
scarcely room for you -and me," he said finally. "But I feel
sorry for you. Come on down."
The elephant thanked him heartily and crashed clumsily
into the pit, while the mouse-deer cowered in a corner. When
the elephant was safely down, the nimble mouse-deer sprang
onto his back and was so close to the top of the pit that with
one leap he was over the edge and on his way.
Finally the kanchil came to a river, but he discovered that it
was too deep and broad for him to cross because he could
neither wade nor swim. He thought hard, for he must get
across the river.
Standing on the riverbank, he had an idea. He called loudly
for all the crocodiles to come together. The oldest crocodile
"Because the king has sent me as his messenger. He said
that all the crocodiles in the river must be counted."
The oldest crocodile told the others and they began to come
Three Tales of the Mouse-Deer 79
together in one spot. They came by twos and threes and fours,
by tens and dozens.
When they were all assembled the mouse-deer said impor-
tantly, "Now line up in a row from bank to bank, so that I can
The crocodiles meekly ranged themselves in a row that ex-
tended from one bank of the river to the other, and the little
mouse-deer leaped on the first crocodile's back. "One!" he
shouted. He jumped on the back of the second crocodile.
"Two!" he cried. And so he went, from one to the other,
counting as he jumped . . . until he came safely to the other
side of the river.
"What foolish creatures you are/' he teased, "to believe
everything you hear, and to do as anyone says!"
They were angry, but the oldest crocodile was more than
angry. He was determined to have revenge on the tricky little
mouse-deer. So he bided his time and when, at last, the mouse-
deer came down to the river's edge to get a drink, the oldest
crocodile was waiting for him and grabbed one of the kanchil's
legs in his mouth.
The mouse-deer thought swiftly. He picked up a branch
from the bank and said, "That's not my leg you have that's a
stick of wood. My foot is here!"
The crocodile let go of the mouse-deer's leg and grabbed the
piece of wood, and the clever mouse-deer bounded away like
a streak of lightning, while the crocodile gazed stupidly at the
piece of wood in his mouth.
He was cross at being fooled. "Ill lie in wait for him/' he
vowed, "and make him sorry he tricked me." He lay in the
water, half -submerged and very quiet, so that he would look
like a water-soaked log. He knew that the mouse-deer would
have to come down to the river again to drink.
80 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
And after a while the mouse-deer came. He stood on the
edge of the river and looked toward the crocodile. He would
never be able to drink while the crocodile was there. So he said
loudly, "That may be a log . . . and then again, it may be a
The oldest crocodile remained motionless.
"Of course/' the kanchil said, just as loudly, "if it's a croco-
dile it will float downstream/'
The crocodile was determined not to give himself away, so
he scarcely breathed. He was very, very still.
"But," the mouse-deer called, "if it's a log, it will float up-
At that the crocodile began to swim against the current,
and the mouse-deer burst into laughter.
"Stupid one!" he cried. "I've fooled you again! Now I can
have my drink in peace."
WHY THE WARINGEN TREE IS HOLY
THERE WAS ONCE A KING who ruled over one of the mightiest
kingdoms in Java. He had many children by his many wives.
The oldest son was called Jamojaja, and he was as handsome
as one of the gods, as slender as a palm tree, as quick and
nimble as a young deer, as strong and courageous as the royal
tiger. But he was also as gentle as a wood dove, and as true as
a horse of the noblest blood, so he was greatly loved by all the
king's subjects. Whenever the prince appeared they applauded
him joyfully, and they bent the knee to him and obeyed his
slightest command as if he were one of the gods.
Among all these people there was only one, who hated him,
and that was Dewi Andana, the second wife of the king. She,
too, had a son, and so there was envy in her heart, for she
knew that someday Prince Jamojaja would succeed his father
on the throne, and then she and her children would be sent
out of the kingdom. And the king was veiy old, she said to her-
self, and she herself was much more beautiful than the king's
Dewi Andana was beautiful, much more beautiful than any
82 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
of the other wives of the king. But she was also the most cun-
ning of them all She would wind her slim, velvet-soft arms
around her husband's neck, her dark eyes would gaze at him
admiringly, and she would dance toward him with his golden
sirih set; so that, more and more, the king found himself under
her spell. He gave her the costly ornaments and the fine silks
for which she asked him in her gentle, flattering voice.
One day when the king was with Dewi Andana, he said to
her, "Would my beloved one like to have the bracelet of gold
with the red and green jewels that the Arab merchant showed
her yesterday?' 7 But Dewi Andana shook her dark head, and
whispered in the king's ear, "No, my king, today I do not
desire any costly ornament. I ask only that you grant me one
"And what is the wish of my most beautiful wife?" asked
"My wish/' she answered him slowly, "is that our son, Raden
Samijan, shall someday rule over this kingdom."
"But that is impossible, as long as Jamojaja lives!" the king
cried. "And what would his mother, the queen, say if the son
of my second wife should succeed me?"
"But am I not the first wife of your heart?" Dewi Andana
asked in her soft voice.
"Yes, you are the first wife of my heart," he answered.
"Well, then," she went on, "why don't you send your son
Jamojaja to the mountains? Tell him that he must stay there
forever because his life is in danger here that some of your
subjects want to poison him. Then he will be afraid and go
away For if he stays here," she said, "perhaps someday the
people will demand that you give up your throne before your
back is bent and your muscles are weakened. Then Jamojaja
will rule over us, your wives will be banished, and never more
Why the Waringen Tree Is Holy 83
will you see your beloved wife, Dewi Andana. Think this over
well, my husband/'
And the king, the great ruler who had never been afraid
before his worst enemies, he who had caught more than fifty
arrows in his hand, who, with sword and lance and sometimes
with his kris alone had killed the deadliest tigers, he the strong,
the courageous, stood now with fear in his heart before the
lovely young woman. He bowed his head and said to her, "It
shall be as my most beloved wife wishes. My son Jamojaja
shall be banished from my kingdom. And after my death
Samijan, the son of my most beloved wife, shall rule over this
That very evening the king ordered Jamojaja and his nobles
to come before him, and when they had come, the king told
them that he had decided to banish the prince to the moun-
tains because he understood that there were people who
wanted to kill him.
Jamojaja begged, "Let me stay here, Father! I am not afraid
But the king said, "It is my desire that you obey my wish,
And with these words the fate of Jamojaja was sealed.
The nobles and all the other courtiers were very sad that the
prince, who was so good and handsome, was to be banished.
But the saddest of all was Dewi Kesumo, the young and beau-
tiful wife of Jamojaja. Jamojaja said to her, "Kesumo, joy of
my life, it is the will of my father that I go away from here. I
could set myself against his will and say, 1 shall remain in the
kingdom where I shall rule after your death/ But if I did that,
I would be going against the adat, the custom, which demands
of us, as children, that we obey our parents. And you, Kesumo,
what will you do?"
04 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
"I will do just as your father wishes/' the young woman said
in her gentlest voice. "I will follow you to the mountains, my
prince. And neither you nor I will murmur or complain, nor
will we ask, 'Why may we not stay in the kingdom of our
father?' No, my husband, we will bow before your father's will,
as the palm tree bows before the fury of the hurricane. What-
ever happens, we will remain together/'
"And your parents, my sweet wife, what will they say if you
go with me to the mountains?" asked the prince. "Will they
not sorrow for their daughter?"
"Kesumo will not listen to the sorrow of her parents/' an-
swered the princess. "She will listen only to the voice of her
husband as it cries to her. She will follow him along the roads
where the rough stones will wound her feet. She will feed on
the fruits that grow in the woods, and the mountain springs
will quench her thirst/'
"And when you are tired, and the sun burns the grass under-
foot?" asked the prince.
"Then we will rest under the palm trees in the forest/' an-
swered the princess, "and the rustle of their leaves will sing us
"Then, my beloved, follow me to the mountains," the
While Janiojaja and his wife sat talking, a dark form crept
into the sleeping room of the prince. It was Dewi Andana. She
was afraid that the king would regret his decision to send his
oldest son into exile. Then her son would not succeed to the
throne. And that must be! That must be! Her son must b^
come king of this mighty realm! She thought, too, that if
Jamojaja should die he would never be able later on to come
back and claim the throne from her son. So she decided to put
him to death. She put a few drops of a strong, but slow-work-
Why the Waringen Tree Is Holy 85
ing, poison into the prince's water jug which stood on a mat
near the bed, and then she disappeared as quietly as she had
That night the prince drank from the water jug as he always
did, and the next morning when he woke up and rose from his
bed, he felt faint and dizzy. But he did not say anything about
it, not even to his wife.
Two days later Jamojaja and the princess left the palace and
started for the mountains, without taking even one servant
with them. Although the prince began to feel more and more
ill, he walked courageously beside his young wife. But one very
warm day, as they came to a deep ravine, he found that he
could go no farther. He fell to the ground and lay there pant-
ing, "My lovely Kesumo, I am dying "
The poor little princess was crazed with grief. She knelt by
her dying husband, took his cold hands in her own warm ones,
and lifted her tear-filled eyes to the heavens. "Oh, great good
spirits/' she prayed, "please help me! Save ray beloved hus-
No sooner had Dewi Kesumo said this, than out of the
heavens appeared Kama Jaja, the protector of married people.
He came to the spot where the prince lay and bent over the
At first the princess did not see him, for her eyes were veiled
with tears. But she did see a strange, brilliant light that radi-
ated from Kama Jaja, and when her eyes had become some-
what accustomed to it, she saw the god himself. His face was
very sad. "O mighty Kama Jaja/' she cried, recognizing him,
"you, who bless marriages, make me happy once morel Give
my beloved husband his life again!"
Kama Jaja's face grew even sadder when he heard these
words, for he could not make the dead live again. "My beau-
86 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
tiful princess/ 7 he said, "a wicked hand has poisoned your
husband. And there is no higher power which can undo the
working of this poison. I will indeed let your husband live
again on earth, not as a man but as a noble tree which shall
stand on this very spot."
At first, Dewi Kesumo did not understand Kama Jaja's
words. She understood them only when she saw how the body
of her husband was lifted up, his arms outstretched, his long
hair falling along his shoulders to the ground. She saw with
wonder that his body became covered with rough bark; and
from his bark-covered arms, there suddenly appeared many
branches graced with beautiful green leaves. Then she saw
that the long strands of hair that fell to the ground were no
longer black, but grey. And as she gazed at all this, she noticed
that his feet were no longer visible. They had sunk into the
ground. They had become the roots of this strange tree! Dewi
Kesumo ran sobbing to the tree and threw her arms around its
rough trunk and laid her face against it, and she cried in her
sorrow, "What use have I of this soulless tree?"
"This tree is not soulless," Kama Jaja said. "It is holy, and
everyone shall call it the holy waringen tree. It shall remain
holy forever and ever. Its seeds shall spread over the whole of
Java; the seeds shall germinate and a fine, proud tree shall
sprout from every seed. Everywhere these trees shall spring
from the ground, even in the smallest villages. And the holy
waringen trees shall become the tree under which sacrifices are
made, everywhere in Java. Kings as well as beggars shall lay
their offerings to the gods beneath its branches. Children shall
come to play wherever a waringen stands. Young people shall
lean against its trunk and whisper their love for each other.
Under its crown of leaves the bride shall pledge her troth to
her bridegroom. Kings, weary with war-making, shall come to
rest under the great and holy waringen, and shall listen to the
rustle of its leaves telling them of new victories. And woe to
him who dares to order his slaves to fell a waringen! Sickness
and great misfortune shall come to him and to his children/'
When Kama Jaja had said this to Dewi Kesumo, he suddenly
returned to the heaven of the gods.
The sad little princess, however, remained standing on the
same spot, her arms around the trunk of the great tree, her
head resting against it. And so Dewi Kesumo slipped into
50 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
eternity. Her soul was taken up to the heaven of the gods, and
her body was changed into a beautiful spring, where crystal-
clear water forever bubbled.
While all this was happening in the deep ravine, there was
sorrow and anxiety in the kingdom because of Jamojaja's dis-
The nobles and the courtiers knew well enough what had
happened, but the common people, who were so devoted to
the prince, knew nothing of what had taken place in the pal-
ace. And when, after some days, the king let it be known that
Raden Samijan, the son of his second wife, was to succeed him
on the throne, they understood suddenly that something
strange had happened. When they learned of the banishment
of their beloved prince, they became angry, and demanded
that he be called back.
But the common people were not the only ones who wanted
this. No, the strangest thing was that Samijan himself went to
the king and begged that his brother, whom he loved so much,
be allowed to return. Samijan was only ten years old, and he
could not understand why, since Jamojaja's disappearance, he
was being cared for with such respect and reverence, and why
a bodyguard of slaves must always go with him, whenever he
left the palace grounds, to carry his amulets.
"I am no prince/' he said in astonishment.
"You are indeed a prince," his mother would tell him over
and over again. "You are now the first son of the king; you are
the heir to the throne!"
One day, when his mother had said this to him again, Sami-
jan became very angry. He stamped his little feet and shrieked,
"If s not true! I am not the heir to the throne! That is my
brother! He must come back! I will go to find him myself."
Why the Waringen Tree Is Holy 89
And not long after that they missed little Samijan, and no
matter where they searched for him, they could not find him.
Forty days and forty nights the slaves searched the forests
and the mountains, the ravines and the grottos. They waded
through rivers and streams, but they could find no trace of the
And he was never found. For when his longing for his lost
brother grew too strong for him, Samijan cried to the gods to
change him into a bird so that he could fly over the country-
side, over mountains and seas and thick forests, to look for
Jamojaja. And the gods heard his prayer and changed him into
a beautiful bird. Now Samijan was happy. He could fly wher-
ever he wished, from north to south, and from east to west.
But wherever he flew, he could not find Jamojaja, his exiled
So it was that he came one day to the waringen tree and the
softly murmuring, crystal-clear spring. And he drank of the
spring water and sat down on one of the branches of the
waringen and began to cry sadly, "Kakagatot, kakagatot!" (I
am looking for my brother.)
He did not hear how the leaves of the waringen above him
whispered, "I am your brother." Nor did he hear the crystal
waters of the spring murmuring, "You are with your brother/ 7
And because he could not understand the language that the
waringen tree and the spring spoke to him, the little bird flew
away, sadder than before, still crying, "Kakagatot, kakagatot!"
Even now, after centuries and centuries, the bird cries its sor-
rowful, "Kakagatot, kakagatot!" And even now he does not
hear the leaves of the holy waringen tree answering him com-
fortingly, "I am your brother! I am your brother!"
MOHAMMED AND THE SPIDER
IN THE DAYS when Mohammed was living on the earth as an
ordinary mortal, he often angered his father-in-law by his
prophecies and his wonderful deeds. The old man hated Mo-
hammed, and one day he roused the people against the
prophet. They made life so miserable for him that finally Mo-
hammed fled the city.
Unfortunately, some wicked people saw him flee. They im-
mediately told Mohammed's father-in-law, who ordered them
to follow the prophet and bring him back. "And if he refuses
to return with you, kill him/ 7 the old man said.
The wicked men went in search of Mohammed who, in
his despair, had taken the wrong road a lonely road where no
tree grew, where no house stood, and where there was not even
any underbrush in which he could hide himself. He looked
about him anxiously, and then he saw his pursuers who were
coming closer and closer. This made Mohammed even more
anxious, and he asked Allah to help him.
And Allah did help him, for all at once the prophet noticed
a grotto that lay just a few steps ahead. He ran to it; but he
discovered that the opening in the cave was so narrow that a
man could not crawl through it. But again Allah helped him
by widening the opening sufficiently to enable Mohammed to
creep through it and hide himself from his pursuers.
Now in this cave there lived a great many insects, among
them a giant scorpion and a great spider with a cross on its
back. The spider felt kindly toward people, but the scorpion
hated everything that was called "man." When he saw Mo-
hammed enter the cave, he became angry and flung his
pointed tail so hard against the walls of the cave that all the
other insects crept back into their holes and crannies in fright.
And when he saw that Mohammed did not fear him, the
scorpion was even more furious. He crept up to him, and tried
to chase Mohammed away with his venomous stings.
But before he could attack the prophet, the spider came out
of her cranny, faced the scorpion, and asked him, "What are
you doing? Why don't you leave the poor man in peace? Do
you think he has hunted out a hiding place for pleasure?"
"I suffer no man in our house/ 7 said the scorpion angrily,
Q2 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
and he struck out even harder with his tail. "Man doesn't be-
long in a grotto; he belongs on the earth, and he should not
live, as we do, in holes and cracks. He must go; I insist on it!"
The scorpion's attitude toward the prophet angered the
spider. She placed herself in front of the scorpion and spoke
threateningly, "Don't touch him, or I will weave such a strong,
thick web around you that you'll never be able to get out
While the spider was saying this to the scorpion, Moham-
med was listening at the opening of the cave for the footsteps
of his pursuers. His worry showed on his face, and the spider
noticed it and said, "Why are you afraid, man? You have noth-
ing more to fear from the scorpion. If he tries to sting you, I
will weave him fast in my strong web/ 7
"I fear the people who are following me much more than I
fear the sting of the scorpion/' said Mohammed. "If they find
me here in this cave, they will kill me."
"They will never find you here/' the spider replied. She
went to the opening of the cave and wove a great, strong web,
and when it was done, she sat down in the center of it
Mohammed was not listening to what the spider said. He
was listening to the footsteps of his pursuers coming closer and
closer, and now he heard their voices.
"I clearly saw him go into that cave," said the first voice.
"He must have hidden himself here. Come, let us search for
him. You Achmed," the voice continued, "are the smallest of
us. You will creep through the opening and drag Mohammed
"Stupid one!" cried Achmed. "How can he have entered
the cave without chasing away this spider, sitting in the mid-
dle of her web? He would have had to destroy the web itself!"
"Achmed is right," said another voice. "Mohammed cannot
Mohammed and the Spider 93
be hidden in this grotto. Come, men, let us go on. We shall
find him somewhere."
In a little while Mohammed knew that the men had gone
on. And now for the first time he saw the spider, sitting in the
middle of her web, and realized what she had done for him.
Later, much later, he told his friends of his wonderful es-
cape. And ever since that time no follower of the prophet ever
kills a spider, because it was a spider that once saved the life of
WHY THE CROCODILE HATES MAN
IN THE NORTHEASTERN PART of the Tengger mountains lies the
Lake of Grati, the so-called Crocodile Lake.
The lake got its name from the many crocodiles which, cen-
turies and centuries ago, mysteriously appeared in its waters;
then, after living there a while, they as mysteriously disap-
peared, leaving in their stead the ikan leleh, a long, dark-grey
fish something like an eel. These fish were really the reason
why the crocodiles are now the enemies of man. How this
came about is told in the following legend:
Long, long ago, when the villagers were simple, kindly folk,
the crocodiles that lived in the Lake of Grati were on friendly
terms with the people of the neighborhood.
The oldest pair of crocodiles, who were called Kyai and Nyai
Buaja, were the great-great-great-great-great-grandparents of
the youngest crocodiles. Because they were so old, the gods
had given Kyai and Nyai Buaja the power to change them-
selves, as soon as twilight fell, into human beings; but as soon
as day broke they had to become crocodiles again.
Now Kyai and Nyai Buaja owned a gamelan which they had
safely hidden away in their home on the bottom of the lake.
This gamelan, which made very beautiful music, was always
Why the Crocodile Hates Man 95
being borrowed by the villagers whenever they had a marriage
or a harvest feast to celebrate. In order to get in the good
graces of the old crocodiles, those who wanted to hold a feast
would send a little raft out on the water to the place where
Kyai and Nyai Buaja came to the surface every day. On the
raft would be burning incense and a fine duck or perhaps a
chicken. When the old pair appeared, the people would cry,
"Kyai and Nyai Buaja, my daughter is going to be married,"
or "We are going to have a harvest feast; our rice is ripe. May
we please borrow your gamelan? And we hope you will come
to the feast, too/'
When the people had said this, the two crocodiles would
dive down to the depths of the lake, and it wasn't long before
the raft, with the gamelan on it, would reappear on the shore.
And, shortly before midnight on the evenings when the
celebrations were being held and the soft, lovely music of the
gamelan was drifting over the lake, Kyai and Nyai Buaja would
appear in their human forms and would take part in the fes-
tivities. They would stay until just an hour before sunrise, be-
cause they were afraid that if they stayed longer and were
turned back into their crocodile shapes, they would frighten
the people, and they didn't want that to happen.
This went on for many years. The people often asked for the
loan of the gamelan, and as often as they asked for it they
would put a duck or a chicken or a little wild pig or perhaps
a deer on the raft, in return. All this, of course, made the croco-
diles feel more and more friendly toward the villagers.
But everything was changed when a woman called Leleh
came to live in a nearby village.
Leleh was a wicked woman. People said that she was a witch,
and that her charms could call forth the evil spirits, and that
was why she had been banished from the village where she was
96 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
born. They even said that she knew a charm that could make
her turn into a tiger, but this was not true. She was, however, a
sly and cunning woman, and a thief. She stole the chickens
and the eggs of the villagers, and she chased away the wild
ducks that came to the shores of the lake to lay their eggs.
And, what was worst of all, she plagued the crocodiles.
She grew so daring in her plaguing that one day she tied a
fat duck to the end of a rope and put it on the raft, and then
cried in a loud voice, "Kyai and Nyai Buaja, I'm sending you
something delicious for your meal. Come up and see what it
is; it's all ready for you on the raft!"
The two big heads of the old crocodiles had hardly appeared
on the surface of the water, and they had hardly looked
around with their knowing eyes, before the wicked Leleh
pulled the little rope that was attached to the leg of the duck
and drew it back to the shore. And she cried tauntingly, "I,
too, like a tasty tidbit! Find something else for yourselves, old
ones!" And thereupon she built a fire, roasted the duck to a
delicate brown, and sat down and ate every last crumb of it.
After this had happened again and again, the old crocodiles
began to tire of it. They said nothing to anyone, neither to
Leleh herself nor to the villagers, but they decided between
themselves that Leleh must be punished and soon. So the
next time she put a duck on the raft and called out, 'Tm send-
ing you a delicious morsel for your meal, old ones!" Kyai
Buaja called back, "Send the raft a little nearer, Leleh. My
wife is sick and I cannot leave her."
Leleh pushed the raft a little farther, but at the same time
she pulled the duck off. And no sooner had she done this than
from all sides the crocodiles shot out of the water and, led by
Kyai Buaja himself, dragged Leleh with them down to the
depths of the lake. There Kyai changed her into a fish which
he called the leleh fish, or ikan leleh.
He told her that from now on she would have to take care
of all his great-great-great-grandchildren, the young crocodiles.
But when she tried to do this, the young crocodiles bit her so
fiercely that her fins became weak (and from that time to this
the leleh fish has been a weak-finned fish) . She was forbidden
ever to leave the lake again. She could not have done so any-
how, because her many descendants put her in a narrow cleft
in the rocks and forced her to stay there. There were so many
of these fish, her descendants, that soon there were more leleh
fish than crocodiles. Kyai and Nyai Buaja finally had to call on
the villagers to help them.
The villagers fished day and night for the wicked lelehs and
they caught them by the netfuls. But the more they caught,
the more there were left in the lake.
Kyai and Nyai Buaja thought that the villagers were in
league with the fish and merely caught them and then threw
them back into the lake. And so they and all the other croco-
QO INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
diles became angry with people. They became so angry that
they swore eternal enmity. Kyai Buaja himself said that when-
ever he met a human being he would kill him immediately.
And one day, when the water in the lake was higher than usual,
Kyai and Nyai Buaja and all the other crocodiles left the place
where they had lived so happily before the coming of Leleh.
They left the lake in such a mysterious manner that none of
the village people noticed their going. They only knew that
the next day ? when they went down to the lake and called, the
crocodiles were gone. And they never came back.
WHY THERE ARE NO TIGERS IN BORNEC
THOUGH TIGERS PROWL the jungles of Java and Sumatra and
many other islands of Indonesia, there are none whatever in
the forests of Borneo. An old folk story tells the reason for this.
It seems that the Rajah of All the Tigers, who lived on Java,
found that food was getting so scarce that he and his subjects
were threatened with starvation. So he decided that he would
send word to the inhabitants of Borneo that they must send
him food, or he would come with his army and conquer the
He selected three messengers to carry his ultimatum to
Borneo, and they traveled over the sea and came to the island,
weary and hot. They searched everywhere for the rajah of
Borneo but could not find him. When they were about to
give up, they met a tiny mouse-deer.
"Where is your rajah?" the tigers demanded. 'We have an
important message to deliver to him/'
"He is hunting/' the mouse-deer replied. "What is your im-
"We bring word from our rajah that your ruler must sur-
1OO INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
render. Take us to your rajah so that we can deliver our mes-
The mouse-deer thought quickly. "Would it not be better
if you rested here in the shade, after your long journey, and
let me carry the message for you? I promise to find the rajah
and deliver your message promptly, and I will bring you his
The messengers looked at one another and decided, since it
was so hot and they were so tired, to let the mouse-deer do as
"Very well/' said the spokesman, "but be quick about it.
Go and tell him that the Rajah of All the Tigers demands
food, in great quantities which we shall specify. It must be
given to us at once or our rajah will send his army to destroy
you. What is more/' he said, stepping forward and nearly
knocking down the tiny mouse-deer, "give him this, as a token
of our rajah's might/ 7 He drew out a tiger's whisker and gave
it to the mouse-deer.
"This is from the royal face," he said importantly. "The
rajah himself plucked it from his whiskers, to show how strong
The mouse-deer took the royal whisker and held it away
from him. "It is very large," he said, in a tiny voice. "Your
rajah must be strong and fierce."
"Begone!" said the messenger imperiously. "We will wait
here . . . but not too long."
The mouse-deer turned and fled. His thoughts raced as he
ran. If the Rajah of All the Tigers in Java needed food he must
be desperate for meat. "I am meat/' thought the little mouse-
deer, "and so are all the creatures on Borneo. If the Rajah of
All the Tigers sends an army he will destroy us ... and then
he will remain in Borneo. I must think!"
He ran through the woods and leaped the streams. Suddenly
there was a rustling sound in the leaves and his quick eyes
spied his friend the porcupine.
The porcupine peered up at him. "What is your hurry,
kanchil?" he asked. "It is too hot to run so fast/'
"I am worried . . . but seeing you has solved my problem.
Give me one of your quills* friend, and save Borneo for all
"I'll gladly give you a quill/' said the porcupine. "Surely I
have enough and to spare at least one for my good friend the
mouse-deer. But can't you tell me why you need it?"
"Later/' said the mouse-deer. "You are a good friend indeed.
You have saved our country."
And off he bounded, bearing the quill in his teeth.
He ran as fast as he could back to the spot where he had left
102 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
the tigers. They were pacing back and forth, looking annoyed
"Well, you've been gone a long time!" the oldest one cried
"I had to find our rajah/' said the mouse-deer breathlessly.
"And I had to wait till he woke from his nap after his hunting.
Then I had to wait for an audience. And then I had to wait for
his answer/ 7
"Well, what is it?" the messengers demanded. "Did you tell
him what our rajah said?"
"Word for word, as you told it to me," the mouse-deer an-
swered. "I told him that your rajah demanded food at once,
and surrender, or he would come with his great army and de-
"Yes, yes. And he said . . . ?"
The mouse-deer replied, "He said, 'Very well, let the Rajah
of All the Tigers in Java come and fight us. He will find that
we can fight better than he. In fact/ he said, 'I am weary of
peace and would welcome a battle in which we could prove
our might once more/ "
"Did you give him the whisker from the royal face?" the
oldest tiger asked.
"I gave it to him/' the mouse-deer replied. "And do you see
this whisker I hold in my teeth?"
"Is that a whisker?" the tigers asked. "It is larger than you
are, longer by a foot, and thicker than your leg. 7 '
"It is from the royal face of our rajah," the mouse-deer said.
He took the quill from his teeth and handed it to the oldest
messenger. "Fed it; see how thick it is. Our rajah plucked it
from his face and said that I was to give it to you to take to
Why There Are No Tigers in Borneo 103
"Nothing more?" the messengers asked, turning pale.
"Nothing more. . . . Oh, you are going?"
The oldest tiger said hurriedly, 'We must return at once.
Our rajah waits for your rajah's answer/'
"Of course. And it is hot here, and you have a long way to
go. Be sure to take good care of the whisker . . . although, if
need be, our rajah can always send another one/'
The oldest tiger took the big quill carefully in his paws, and
all the messengers started back to Java. They crossed the land
and then the water and then the land again, and came at last
to the spot where their rajah waited impatiently.
"You have been gone far too long/' the rajah rumbled in
his throat. "What word do you bring?"
The messengers trembled at the terrible tone of his voice,
thinking of the message they had to deliver. They looked to
the oldest one, and he swallowed hard, and said, "Oh mighty
one, the miserable rajah of Borneo said he would welcome war
and sent you this."
He stepped forward fearfully and held out the big, thick
quill of the porcupine. "It comes from his royal face/' he
The Rajah of All the Tigers in Java gazed at it long and
hard, stroking his own whiskers the while. He could not help
feeling the difference. He said nothing for a long time.
Then he looked blandly at the trembling messengers. "I
have decided," he said, "that it would be better to demand
food of the elephants of Sumatra/'
Whether the elephants of Sumatra ever sent the food the
story does not tell, but it is a fact that from that day to this
there have been no tigers in Borneo.
THE LEGEND OF THE KARANG
IN THE SOUTHERN PART of the province of Bantam lies the
mountain range called the Kendang, where the Baduwi tribe
settled long, long ago and lived far away from other people.
The Baduwis still practiced the religion of their forefathers
and were not yet followers of Mohammed. The Baduwis were
brave and honest, for if they did anything wicked they knew
that they would never reach the White Place, where all those
who died went to find blessed rest and eternal happiness.
Now the White Place, according to the Baduwis, did not
lie under the earth, nor was it in the heavens. It was not far
from their own village, and was a place with many terraces
where basalt stones of all sizes and shapes were to be found.
These stones lay everywhere, even in the middle of the dense
forest where the White Place was. In these stones, the Badu-
wis saw their gods, and so they worshipped and prayed to
them, and brought offerings of rice and flowers there.
It seldom happened that a Baduwi did anything wrong in
the eyes of his tribesmen. But if such a thing did happen, his
soul did not reach the holy White Place, but was taken by the
fire-spirits to the group of little volcanoes which lies in the
northern part of Bantam, where the highest mountain is
called the Karang.
These volcanoes were not always there. How they came into
being is told in this legend.
Hanomat was the king of the monkeys and a son of the
great wind-god. Sometimes he wandered over the earth in the
form of an orangutan, and one day he came to visit his peo-
ple, the monkeys. He came with two great bags of sand slung
over his shoulder, for he wanted the monkeys to help him
build two little islands in the straits of Sunda. But when he
came to the place where the monkeys lived, very tired from
carrying his heavy load, he saw, to his surprise, that one of the
gods had been there before him and had already built three
little islands Krakatau, Besi, and Dwars-in-den-weg. Hanomat
was so angry about this that he tore his bags to pieces, and the
sand ran out in great waves. The waves of sand piled up
higher and higher, until they formed two big mountains.
One of these mountains Hanomat called the Karang and
106 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
the other he called Pulosari. When Pulosari had reached the
height of an ordinary mountain it stayed as it was. But the
Karang grew and grew until it was so high that its tip reached
into the heavens.
When the monkeys saw this they thanked their king, Hano-
mat ? because they thought that he had purposely made the
Karang so high to enable them to climb up to the stars.
The mountain was hardly finished before a whole colony of
monkeys climbed to the top and began to tease the stars. Yes,
finally they became so impudent that they actually began to
bite the little stars!
The gods in their heaven saw this, and one evening Vishnu
said to Brahma, "Look, O Creator, how those naughty chil-
dren of Hanomat's are teasing the little stars. Shouldn't we
punish them for this?"
But Brahma answered, "My dear Vishnu, they will soon be
tired of their teasing. Let us watch a little longer and see how
So the gods did not punish the monkeys just then. But one
evening, when one of the biggest monkeys began to snap at
the evening star, and the star shrank behind a cloud in terror,
Vishnu said to Brahma, "Look, O great one! Must this go on
night after night? Cannot you, who are so mighty, forbid
these animals to do what they are doing?"
And Brahma, the kind-hearted Creator, answered, "The eve-
ning star is now beyond their reach. The monkeys cannot do
much more harm tonight. Let us therefore wait till morning/'
But the following morning, when day began to break and
the morning star was shining beautifully in the heavens,
Brahma himself looked out of the gods' heaven and saw how
some of the monkeys were beginning to bite that lovely, bril-
liant star. The star looked for a cloud where she could hide
The Legend of the Karang 107
herself, but she found none, and in terror of the teasing ani-
mals she called out, "Great Brahma, if this teasing doesn't
stop soon, I will not shine in the sky any more, and neither
will any of the other stars!"
When the evening star and all the other stars, big and little,
heard the morning star say this to Brahma, they, too, cried,
"No, no ? great, mighty Brahma, we will not shine in the sky
any more, if this teasing by the monkeys does not stop!"
So Brahma called to him the favorite of the gods, Lurah
Dalam, who by day ruled over the kingdom of Bantam, and
ordered him to send Hanomat to him immediately.
"Hanomat," Lurah Dalam said, when he had found him,
"Brahma has commanded me to send you immediately to the
"What must I do in the gods' heaven?" asked Hanomat
"I think that Brahma wants to give you one of the great
scissors to snip off a piece of the mountain so that the monkeys
can no longer climb up to the stars/' said Lurah Dalam.
"Do you mean to say that I must cut off a piece of my beau-
tiful mountain?" Hanomat cried. "And where will the piece
"I think it will go into the sea," answered Lurah Dalam.
"What, must I churn up the sea with my mountaintop?"
the king of the monkeys cried in anger. 'Tell Brahma that if
he wants to do that, he can use the three mountains that the
gods put down in the Sunda Straits."
When he heard this impertinent language, Lurah Dalam
became angry, too. "Do you mean to say," he cried, "that you
dare tell Brahma what he should do and what he should not
do? Go immediately to the gods' heaven, I tell you, and get
the big scissors!"
"I don't want a piece of my big, beautiful mountain snipped
108 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
off." Hanomat mumbled. "My mountain is going to stay as
it is. . . ."
"Do you refuse to do what Brahma orders?" asked Lurah
Dalam in a terrible voice. "Get the scissors immediately, or I
will banish you to the realm of the ghosts."
Then Hanomat knew that, whether he wanted to or not, he
must go to the gods' heaven. Brahma gave him the scissors and
said, "Snip off a third of the Karang, so that none of the mon-
keys can tease the stars any more."
"And what shall I do with the snipped-off piece, O mighty
Brahma?" asked Hanomat.
"First snip it off," said Brahma. "The rest will take care of
With the great scissors in his hands, Hanomat returned to
the earth. Then he climbed to the top of the Karang and
snipped off a third of the mountain. With a thundering noise,
the snipped-off part fell, and formed, by Brahma's will, a group
of smaller volcanoes. And to these volcanoes go the souls of
those Baduwis who have done something wicked in their lives*
THE MIGHTY HUNTER
A YOUNG MAN whose name was Awang Durahman lived in a
small village near a great forest. He liked nothing better than
to wander in the woods, looking for game, and dreaming.
One day, when the sun was hot, he took his spear and went
into the forest where it was cool and quiet.
As he walked he talked to himself:
'Took at me! I am the mightiest hunter in the land! No
animal can hear me coming, for I walk so softly!"
With that he practically stumbled upon a small deer which
lay in the shadows, sound asleep.
Awang looked down at the deer. "It is too defenseless to
kill. I will take out my tobacco and my pipe and smoke a bit"
He filled his pipe and hung his tobacco pouch on the antlers
of the sleeping deer. Then he leaned against a tree, with his
spear beside him, and thought, "This deer, when I kill it, will
make a great deal of meat. I will have plenty for my mother,
my father, and myself. I will sell the rest and have much
money. What shall I do with the money?"
He thought a while longer, and smiled to himself.
, I will buy some ducks, of course! There will be so
HO INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
many ducks that they will make a loud noise in the village and
eat all the grain. People will be angry and will ask whose ducks
they are. My mother will say, They belong to Awang Durah-
man/ and people wfll say, 'He must be a rich man to have so
many ducks/ "
Awang went on daydreaming. "Then I will sell the ducks
and buy some goats. There will be many goats and they will
eat the crops in the field. 'Whose goats are these?' people will
ask, and my mother will say, They are Awang Durahman's/
Then the people will cry, 'He must be rich to have so many
He thought a while. "After a time I will sell the goats, I
think, and buy some buffaloes. They will be big and strong;
they will work my fields for me. When I milk them, they will
give much milk, and people will say, 'Whose buffaloes are
these?' My mother will answer, "They are Awang Durahman's
buffaloes/ and people will cry, 'He must be very rich to have so
many buffaloes that give so much milk/ "
A smile spread across Awang's face as he leaned against the
tree and he sucked happily on his pipe and watched the smoke
from it spiral into the quiet air.
"But after a time I will sell the buffaloes and buy some
elephants. They will be strongso strong that they will knock
down the bamboo houses of my neighbors and trample their
fields and wade in the stream. And people will cry, 'Whose
elephants are these that have come to our village?' My mother
will say, 'Do you not know that they belong to my son, Awang
Durahman?' and the villagers will cry, 'But he must be enor-
mously rich to have so many elephants!' "
Awang blew another puff of smoke and waited till it had
vanished toward the sky just barely visible between the tree-
"Then, I think, I will sell my elephants to the Rajah. He
will give me his daughter in marriage, and with her I will sail
to distant islands to Java and Bali and Borneo and Amboina
and Celebes. In my fine ship I will sail wherever I please, with
my beautiful young wife, the Rajah's daughter, beside me/'
In the waving of the leaves, he saw the motion of the waves
and his body swayed as with the motion of a boat. He squinted
his eyes, looking toward far horizons.
"With my beautiful wife beside me," he repeated, "I will
sit on the deck, while my servants fan me with palm fronds
and bring me cooling drinks. I will play games while my wife
sleeps and my child Hassan crawls about the deck."
He could see Hassan's small brown body crawling over the
sloping deck. He could feel the movement of the ship, rising,
"Heh!" he cried loudly, and leaped into the air. "Hassan has
112 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
fallen into the sea! Hassan, my child, has fallen into the sea!
Save him, you, Achmed, you, Kerto!"
His spear fell to the ground and the deer sprang up in fright,
and darted into the deep forest, the tobacco pouch still dan-
gling from its antlers.
Awang shook his head and rubbed a hand across his eyes.
He picked up his spear and walked slowly down the forest
"Aid" he moaned sadly. "I was rich and now I am poor!
Wait till I come upon that wretched deer! He has made off
with my ship and my wife and my child and my tobacco
pouch! Aie, Ale!"
It was cool in the forest, and sweet-smelling and quiet. The
path was soft under his feet, the sun, through the tall trees,
made a golden light between the shadows.
Awang walked in happy silence for a while. The wind began
to rise. It sang a song to him. He listened, stopping in his walk.
"What is it the wind says?" he asked himself, and listened
again. A smile broke over his face. "The wind says, 'Whose
tobacco pouch is this?' and the wind answers itself, 'Why, it
is the pouch of Awang Durahman, the mighty hunter!' "
WHY CROWS ARE BLACK
IN THE OLDEN DAYS, when the tigers still lived in peace with
other animals, the crow was called "The Bird of Paradise." Her
feathers were of purest white; but since then she has lost these
beautiful white feathers and in their place wears black ones.
How this came about is told in a very old tale:
When Allah had shaped the fishes, the birds, and the four-
footed beasts, he called the white crow to him and said, "Bird
of Paradise, you are large and handsome, you are strong and
swift; therefore you shall be my messenger."
The crow bowed her sleek white head and said, "Great
Allah, I will be your messenger. Tell me what you wish me
to do/ 7
Allah showed the white crow a bit of clay, and said, "From
this clay I am going to knead a man."
So Allah kneaded a man, and when he had laid the figure
near him on the ground he called the animals to admire it.
All of them came the birds, the four-footed beasts, and the
fishes. All of them looked on the man made of clay that lay
motionless on the ground. And when Allah asked, "Well, how
do you like this man?" the fishes began by saying, "It's a very,
very strange thing!"
114 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
"Is that a man?' 9 cried the birds in amazement. "It's noth-
ing but a piece of clay!"
"Yes, that's all it is just a piece of clay!" the four-footed
beasts cried, too.
"And you, my messenger, what do you think of this man?"
Allah asked the white crow.
"I say that it has a wonderful shape," answered the crow,
"but . . ."
"What else do you want to say?" asked Allah.
"Only this: there is no life in the man," the crow said at
"There shall indeed be life in the man," Allah said then.
"And I not only wish to give him life, I want to make him
immortal. Therefore I am sending you, my messenger, this
very day to bring me the life-water from the fountain of life,
that shall make man immortal."
"And in what shall I fetch the water?" asked the white
crow. "Will one beak-full be enough to make the man im-
"No," Allah replied. "You must fetch the water in the big
vessel that you will find beside the fountain of life. And re-
member this: do not let any other animal drink of the water,
because I want man alone to be immortal. Promise me that
you will not drink any of it, either."
"I promise," said the white crow, and she flew away to fetch
the life-giving water. The fountain of life was far away, and the
white crow became tired and thirsty.
After she filled the vessel and had flown part of the way
back, she had a great desire to drink just a few drops of the
water. "Allah will never be able to see that there are a few
drops missing," she reasoned to herself. "And why shouldn't I
slake my thirst with the water? Then I shall be immortal,
So thought the white crow. And the more she thought
about it, the more she longed for immortality. Finally she
drank a few drops . . . and then a few more . . . and, at last,
she had almost emptied the vessel.
"Is that the vessel full of life-water that you were to bring
me?" asked Allah, when he saw the few drops that still re-
mained in it. "With these few drops I can give man life,
but I cannot make him immortal. Why were you unable to
fill the vessel, my messenger?"
"There was no more life-water in the fountain/' lied the
At that moment a magpie, whose feathers also were a beau-
Il6 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
tiful white, flew to Allah, and cried, "The white crow lies,
Lord; she herself drank of the life-water that was in the jar. I
sat in a tree along the way and I saw her drinking/'
When Allah heard this, he was so angry at the white crow
that he took her beautiful white feathers from her and in place
of them gave her black ones.
And when the black-feathered crow stood before him with
her head bowed in shame, Allah spoke to her and to the mag-
pie, "I expel you both from Paradise. You, crow, because you
drank the life-water and then lied about it. And you, magpie,
because you were a spy and a talebearer, I will take away half
of your white feathers and, even as the crow, you shall have
black ones in their place!"
That is why the magpie has black-and-white feathers, and
the crow is entirely black.
But whether or not the life-water made the crow immortal
the story does not tell.
THE CHILDREN'S SEA
ON THE MOSS-GROWN SHORES of a little inland sea stood the
huts of men who made their living by gathering edible birds'-
nests. In one of these huts lived Pale Miam, one of the most
fearless gatherers, with his wife and little son. Kertadikrama
was the boy's name. But because his mother found this name
somewhat long for so small a boy, she, and everyone else in
the village, called him Kerta.
When the boy was almost ten years old and the season for
gathering the nests came again, Pak Miam decided to take his
son with him to the cliffs of Karang-Bolong where the nests
Ma Kerta, the little boy's mother, was very frightened when
she heard this. But Pak Miam quieted her fears by saying that
he would not let their son climb down the cliffs. Kerta would
only have to carry the offering of food for the queen, Ratu
Loro Kidul, and then wait on the top of the cliff until his
father told him he might return home.
It was on a Thursday, and still very early in the morning,
when the father and son started for the cliffs. Like all the men
who gathered birds'-nests, they had left home without eating.
For it was understood that, on the first day of the gathering,
11 8 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
the offering of food to the Queen of the South Sea must be
placed on the white mat that lay on the place of sacrifice in
the palm forest before anyone ate his own food.
Pak Miam had fasted through this first day many and many
a time. But Kerta was accustomed to a meal of rice cakes
every morning as soon as he waked, and he did not like this
fasting. He walked behind his father with a sad little face and
whined without ceasing.
"Father, I am so hungry! When may I have some of the
good things that I am carrying in this bag? Father, I am so
hungry! When may I have something to eat?"
At first his father ignored him, but Kerta kept on crying.
At last Pak Miam said, "Kerta, neither you nor I may eat the
good things we are carrying with us. If we do, the queen will
punish us in a terrible manner/'
"How?" Kerta asked, his tears forgotten for the moment.
"I don't know. But we must not let it happen. The queen
demands her sacrifice."
"Why is she so angry, Father?" Kerta asked curiously.
"She was not always so, they say. Once she was a lovely
young princess, but she was banished from her father's king-
dom by his jealous second wife, and was forced to wander
over the countryside. Wlien she became ill no one would take
care of her but an old hermit. And when her illness grew too
evil she was drawn into the sea. There she reigns, but she is
angry at her fate and anyone who comes near her abode must
placate her with food or offerings."
"Still, I am hungry, Father."
"When you have placed the offering on the white mat in
the palm forest, we will both go and get something to eat. The
warong-men will be there with their little stoves on which
they cook delicious things, and you may choose whatever you
The Children s Sea 119
like, if youll stop complaining and act like a big boy. It won't
be long now/'
Kerta was cheered by the prospect of eating very soon, and
stopped his crying to walk sedately behind his father. Just the
same, his hunger grew greater and greater, and finally he
couldn't stand it any longer.
His little brown fingers reached inside the bag and pulled
out a bit of tender chicken. It vanished between his white
teeth. Then his exploring fingers found a piece of fish, baked
to an appetizing brown. Then, after that, he discovered some
rice which had been tinted yellow. He sampled that, too.
And his searching fingers kept finding other tidbits and still
others . . . until at last his stomach was heavy and the bag
was very light.
Kerta's father could not see what was happening behind
his back. When they came to the palm forest, Pak Miam
turned to his son and said, "Take the offering out of the bag,
Kerta, and carry it to the place of sacrifice. You will see it soon
enough. Under a roof of palm leaves there will be a white mat
and nearby will stand the priests who will take the offering
from you and place it on the mat with the others/'
"Come back quickly then, and you may choose whatever
you like from the little stoves of the warong-men."
Kerta hurried to the place of sacrifice. All kinds of mar-
velous food lay on the white mat. The priests took his offering
and placed it beside the handsome offerings of some of the
other nest-gatherers, and when it was put down it looked even
smaller than it was. But the priests asked nothing, and Kerta
said nothing. He was overjoyed that everything had gone so
well for him, and ran back to the warongs. But he had eaten
so much that nothing appealed to him. Even so, he chose a
12O INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
number of things and stowed them away in his headcloth.
Then he accompanied his father to the cliffs and watched
while Pak Miam and the other men lowered themselves cau-
tiously on the swaying ladders that were hung over the steep
While his father was gathering the nests, Kerta wandered
aimlessly through the palm forest. At last, he found himself
getting very tired, so he lay down between two tall trees and
soon fell asleep. He woke only when one of the men came by
and shook him by the arm. "Heh, young one, get up. The sun
has almost set"
Kerta rubbed his eyes. He was still so sleepy that he thought
the man who had waked him was his father. "Is it as late as
"I am not your father/' the man said. "He must have gone
on with the others. Get up and run home quickly. Don't you
hear how the waves are beating against the rocks? Tonight it
will be even worse, when the god of storms and hurricanes
It had grown quite dark and the storm was sweeping over
the palm-roofed huts, when Kerta reached home panting and
"Where is your father?" asked his mother.
"The man who woke me up said thai Father must have
gone home with the other men," Kerta replied.
"Then he will surely come soon," said Ma Kerta. But Pak
Miam did not come. Yet Ma Kerta was not afraid. "No harm
can befall your father/' she said as the evening wore on. "For
the offering that I prepared for Ratu Loro Kidul was so big
and so fine that the queen will feel kindly toward him."
"And if the offering was very, very small, Mother what
could happen to Father, then?" asked Kerta.
The Children s Sea 121
"Then the queen of the South Sea would be very angry
with your father/' the woman answered. "And she would drag
him down to the deep caverns and . . ."
But at that the boy began to cry and sob. And he told his
mother how he had eaten most of the offering which had
been meant for the queen.
His mother was almost crazed with grief when she heard
this, and in her despair she called in her neighbors and urged
them to go and search for Pak Miam.
But none of the men dared trust himself on the cliffs on
such a stormy night. They promised instead that as soon as it
was day they would go and search for her husband. Ma Kerta
did not sleep all night. Sitting on her sleeping mat she wept
for her husband.
Day was just breaking when Kerta awoke with a loud
scream. And when he saw how sad his mother was he said,
"Listen, Mother. It is my fault that Father did not come back,
for I ate the offering. And so I will go and search for him, I
promised that I would in a dream I had a while ago/ 7
"Tell me your dream, Kerta/ 7 said his mother.
"A very ugly old woman came to me. Her eyes were coals
of fire. Her hair curled like snakes around her face, and her
slimy arms tried to grab me. But she could not, because I
wriggled out of her reach. And that made her angry. She said,
in a voice that sounded as loud as the thunder of the waves
on the rocks, 'Kerta, I punished your father because the offer-
ing he brought me was not big enough. So I snatched him
while he was busy gathering the birds'-nests and I threw him
in one of the deepest grottos. There he will remain until he
dies of hunger and thirst, or until my slaves, the octopi, throt-
tle him with their long arms. . . / The ugly old woman
wanted to say more, "but then a beautiful woman came and
122 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
stood beside her, and said to me, in a voice that was as lovely
as the tones of the gamelan, 'Son of Pak Miam, it is true that
your father wanders around in one of the deepest grottos. But
he will not die of starvation. Before the octopi throttle him
with their long arms you will save him. Listen/ she said, 'at
the end of this village there is a cave. As soon as day breaks
you must go there, and you will find someone who will help
you. . . / And just as she said this, she disappeared. But the
ugly old woman still stood there, and when she reached out
her arms again to grab me, I woke up."
Ma Kerta was sure that this dream must have a special
meaning, and she called in a neighbor woman who could in-
terpret dreams. When she heard it she said, "Yes, there is a
passageway between the grottos of Karang-Bolong and the
cave. No mortal has ever trod that way, but perhaps Allah
means your son to be the first to do so. You had better give
a big feast a sacrifice today and then let Kerta go immedi-
ately to search for his father/'
Ma Kerta asked all the men in the village to the feast, and
then they took Kerta to the entrance to the cave which lay at
the end of the village, right on the shore of the little inland
When Kerta entered the cave he found, first, a stone bench,
and then a burial mound of stones; but he could not find the
passageway to the grottos of Karang-Bolong. Feeling very sad,
he sat down on the stone bench to rest. While he sat there,
trying to decide whether he ought to go home again, he
looked up and saw in a corner of the cave a strong, clear light.
In the midst of the light stood a man with a long, white
beard. Very slowly he came toward Kerta. It was as if he
floated rather than walked, and when he had come close, he
laid his hands, which were as transparent as glass and as cold
as marble, on the boy's head, and said, in a voice that sounded
like tinkling crystal, "What do you wish, my son?"
Kerta told how he was searching for his father who was
held captive in the grottos under the rocks of Karang-Bolong.
"It is my fault/' he said, "that Ratu Loro Kidul carried my
father off. I ate the offering that was intended for her."
"My son, you did something very terrible," the crystal voice
of the glass-like man tinkled. "I know how terribly she can
punish. Many, many centuries ago, before Ratu Loro Kidul
had reigned very long over the realm of the South Sea, I dared
to live on a tiny, fertile island within her kingdom. One night
the queen came there. And in one night she made my fruitful
island into a rock, whereon everything, even my house and all
that was in it, turned to stone. And when I asked her where
I should go, now that my very bench and my food and even
the water in my vessels were turned to stone, she pointed to
this burial mound and ordered her slaves to bury me under it.
124 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
"But once in every hundred years she permits me to leave
my grave. Twice may I see the sun come up and go down
again. Yesterday was exactly one hundred years since I was
buried here. I saw the sun come up once, and once I saw it
go down. Not much time is left to me. But I will help you
to free your father from his prison in the grotto. Follow me,
my son, and I will show you the way that leads to the caves/"
The man of glass took Kerta to a narrow opening in the
rocky wall and said, ''Creep through this opening, as soon as
I have touched your eyes with my hand."
Softly the cold, crystal hands glided over Kerta's forehead
and eyes, and the -boy felt himself shrinking and shrinking.
He felt his body become smooth; he realized that he was no
longer standing upright, but was moving forward bent over.,
supported by four little short legs. Kerta had been turned into
"Remember that you must be back here before the sun goes
down. And as soon as you have found your father, call me.
You have only to cry, 'Help me, holy man!' Now go, rny son,
and quickly; I have very little time left/'
Kerta, with his little lizard's body, glided through tihe open-
ing. It was a very narrow passageway, long and dark, and he
had to feel his way. Creeping and crawling, he came at last
to the grottos of Karang-Bolong.
The surf raged against the high rock walls of the grottos,
and the storm shrieked and moaned like a band of howling
ghosts, so angry was the Queen of the South Sea that Kerta
had dared to enter her realm. She called her slaves, the giant
octopi, and told them that they should throttle the life out
of Pak Miam immediately, before Kerta could reach his father
and free him. And the many-armed monsters reared up from
The Children's Sea 125
the bottom of the sea and from behind the great rocks that
lay on the sea's floor, and groped their way toward Pak Miam
who was lying in a rocky cleft, exhausted by hunger and fear.
But Kerta, as a little lizard, crept into the cave and, seeing
the peril his father was in, cried out with all his might. "Help
us, holy man!" Hardly had he said the words when the giant
octopi disappeared in the sea, and Kerta saw that his father,
too, had suddenly been changed into a lizard. But he lay still
and unmoving, as if he were dead.
Kerta was afraid that he and his father would not be able
to get back to the grotto before the sun went down, and so he
began to drag his father along with his little pointed lizard's
mouth. But this did not go easily or quickly, and with all the
pushing and pulling Kerta was almost exhausted. And he had
so far to go!
Only a short part of the distance had been traveled before
Kerta felt his strength ebbing away. But he would not give
up. He would push and pull a while, and then he would rest a
while; but the times when he had to rest grew longer and longer.
Little by little he dragged his father along, and just as they
had reached the opening and he had cried once more, with
the very last of his breath, "Help us, holy man!" he fell down,
He did not hear the crystal voice of the man of glass tinkle,
"Where are you? Where are you, my son?" And he did not
hear his father, who had been turned into his human form
again by the power of the old man, calling to him, "Where
are you? Where are you, my Kerta?" He did not hear any-
thing. But when the sun had gone down, and the man of glass
had begun his second hundred years' rest in the stone burial
mound, a little lizard crept slowly through the narrow open-
126 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
ing. He spoke to Pak Miam who was waiting at the entrance
to the cave, and who was filled with grief because his son
would have to remain a lizard for a hundred years.
"Do not feel sad, Father/ 7 he said. "You were punished be-
cause I ate the offering of food that was meant for Ratu Loro
Kidul. Sooner or later the angry queen would have demanded
a sacrifice for that. I shall be that sacrifice, Father/'
Once more the little lizard gazed with his glittering eyes
at Pak Miam, and then he crept out of the grotto toward the
inland sea, and disappeared in its depths.
And to this day the little inland sea is called the Segara
Anakan, which means the Children's Sea, because of Kerta,
who gave himself as a sacrifice to Ratu Loro Kidul.
THE MAGIC OYSTERS
PAK SIDIN and his wife Munah and their many children lived
in a tumble-dawn hut in a little village in the neighborhood
of Rongkob. Pak Sidin was very poor. But he had not always
been so poor. He had once had a fine, fertile sawah, and two
strong buffaloes over which his eldest son Amat watched.
One day the boy had taken the buffaloes to graze on an
open place near the broad river that flowed past the hut, when
a sudden great flood came it was a stormy day in the south-
west monsoon and there was no time to lead the buffaloes to
safety. The animals, and little Amat too, were swept into the
roaring waves, and were never seen again.
It was this same flood that ruined Pak Sidin's beautiful rice
field and that caused his house, made of closely woven bam-
boo and palm leaves, to collapse and be carried down the
So sadness and poverty had come to the little household.
Pak Sidin and his family took refuge in the tumble-down hut,
and it seemed as if misfortune followed him there. Fevers
sapped his strength, so that he was too weak to work the
rice field. And he had no money to buy new buffaloes to work
128 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
for him because all his money, along with his other pos-
sessions, had been swept away in the flood.
One day, when there was nothing left to Pak Sidin but a
little rice and grain, and he was wondering what he could do
to feed his hungry children, he met one of the men who made
his living gathering birds'-nests, and he told his story to him.
"Why don't you gather birds'-nests, too?" the man said.
"We always have work and are well paid/'
"How can I gather birds'-nests when I have always been a
farmer?" sighed Pak Sidin. "Climbing up and down those
steep ladders against those rocky cliffs! And then . . . there's
Ratu Loro Kidul. . . ." Pak Sidin could scarcely say the
name out loud, he feared the powerful queen so much.
But his friend, Suroh, laughed at him and put his mind at
rest "Come, come," he said, "the queen isn't to be feared that
much! Prepare a good sacrifice for her tomorrow morning,
and then the day after tomorrow come with us to the cliffs.
You can see how the work appeals to you, and if the queen is
well disposed toward you, you will certainly never have to
worry about floods any more."
When Pak Sidin told his wife that he intended to gather
birds'-nests for a living and was going with the other men to
the cliffs of Rongkob, she thought that this was a good plan.
But when he told her about the sacrifice he would have to take
along, she began to cry and sob, "Oh, but we have nothing in
the house except two batoks of rice and four ears of grain!"
"Divide the grain with the children," Pak Sidin ordered,
"and prepare the two batoks of rice for the queen. Color part
of it red and the rest yellow, so that the eyes of the mighty
queen will be enchanted with the beautiful colors."
At first Munah objected, saying that the children were
always hungry and that the grain was not enough to still their
The Magic Oysters 129
hunger. "And besides, what will you eat?" she asked her hus-
"I shall fast," Pat Sidin answered, "until after the sacrifice
is set down on the offering-place. After that my friends will
surely lend me something so that I can buy some food at the
On the day that Pak Sidin was to go with the other men,
Munah was busy before sunrise preparing the beautifully col-
ored rice and putting it in Pak Sidin 's best headcloth.
"I put it in your best headcloth/' she said. "If one offers a
sacrifice, everything should be clean and neat/ 7
Faint and exhausted from his fasting, Pak Sidin started
out with his friends. Curiously he looked now and again at the
beautifully colored red and yellow rice that was partly visible
through a fold in the headcloth. But he did not eat a single
grain. He thought how overjoyed the queen would be when
she saw the brightly colored rice placed with the other offer-
ings of food on the white mat in the palm forest.
Pak Moor, one of the other men, however, behaved in an
entirely different manner. As a sacrifice he carried beautiful
white rice and chicken and fish and all kinds of other good
things. And when no one was looking, he stole first a bit of
this and then a bit of that, until by the time he reached the
place of sacrifice he had only some chicken bones and some
banana skins left.
Pak Sidin's offering already lay on the white mat when Pak
Moor came up, puffing and blowing and saying that he was
late because he had lost his offering along the way.
But when all the men went to eat at the warongs, and only
Pak Moor ate nothing, they began to doubt the truth of his
story, and they whispered to one another that the queen was
going to be very angry, that something dreadful was going to
130 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
happen! As they said this, they all looked at Pak Sidin, the
newcomer. Even the overseer looked at him and took care to
be near him when they came to the ladders.
The weather was fine when the men began the dangerous
descent o the cliffs. Pak Sidin went down between the over-
seer and one of the best men. "Don't look down/' the overseer
warned him. "Look only at your ladder, and be sure to hold
fast to it" And when they reached the surf and took hold of
the ropes to come to the caves, the overseer told him, "You
stay here in this first cave, Pak Sidin, and look around a while;
perhaps it will be easy after that to find the nests/'
Pak Sidin did so. He looked around the cave, first along
the walls, from top to bottom, and then he saw a number of
oysters lying on a big, flat stone. He thought that it would
be nice to take some of them to his wife, because she was so
fond of oysters and must be very hungry by this time. "She
will have divided the grain among the children, and gone with-
out anything to eat herself/' he said. "So I will take some of
these oysters to her."
"Yes, Pak Sidin, take some of the oysters for her/' a voice
cried to him from the sea. "But don't let any mortal see them.
Put them under your waistband and in your headcloth, for
these oysters are meant only for you. They are your reward for
Suddenly it became very quiet in the cave, and in the deep
silence Pak Sidin gathered as many oysters as he could stuff
beneath his waistband and in his headcloth. A little later the
overseer came back, and with his coming the rest of the oysters
that were clinging to the rock swiftly disappeared.
The overseer showed Pak Sidin how he should pluck the
nests from the rocks and how he should proceed after that.
Pak Moor was in another cave. He felt very tired and sleepy
after gulping down the food which had been meant for Ratu
Loro Kidul, and so, instead of working, he sat down on one of
the stones in the cave and soon fell asleep.
And while her husband was sleeping, Pak Moor's wife was
standing on the shore and crying to the Queen of the South
Sea ? "Great, mighty queen, please give us a fortune as great
as my husband's offering was great!"
And on the other side of the shore Munah, Pak Sidin's wife,
was sitting in front of her little hut, after having given the last
of the grain to her children, and crying, "Great, mighty Ratu
Loro Kidul, please let me see my husband again! Please bring
him back safely to me and the children!"
Pak Moor slept on and on. He did not know that the day
was growing darker, that the sky was becoming grey. He did
not hear how the thunder rolled and the storm howled inces-
santly; he did not hear how the waves dashed in fury against
the rocks. He did not see the lightning flashes that turned the
cave into a place of blue flame. Not until an enormous
wave broke over him did Pak Moor awake from his deep slum-
132 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
ber. Then he sprang up and tried to grasp the rope that would
bring him to the ladders again. But he could not catch hold
of it before another great wave dashed against him and threw
him back, and he heard a voice that rang like the swish of
the sea crying to him, "You miserable glutton! Why did you
eat the offering that was meant for me? Tell me, why did you
"I was hungry/' Pak Moor cried in terror.
"Hungry hungry " the voice echoed, and he heard a
Now for the first time Pak Moor realized that it was Ratu
Loro Kidul who was speaking to him. "Oh, forgive me, for-
give me, mighty queen! 7 ' he begged.
"I never forgive him who eats the offering that was meant
for me/" the voice spoke. 'Instead I take him with me to my
undersea caves. Come, follow me there. My slaves are waiting
for you. They have their many arms outstretched to catch you.
They will embrace you and . . ."
"Have pity, oh mighty queen, have pity!" sobbed Pak Moor.
"I have a wife and many children, and they will all die of
hunger if I do not return to them."
"What he says is true, O great queen/' another voice said
suddenly. It was one of the little sea sprites that spoke.
"But he must be punished," Ratu Loro Kidul insisted.
"So he must/' the little sea sprite said. "But do not give
him to the octopi. Give ear to the prayer that Pak Moor's wife
has made to you. That would be the most serious punishment
of all for this glutton."
"What did his wife ask of me?"
"She begged that you should give her a fortune as great as
her offering was great; the offering that her husband set down
for you on the place of sacrifice/'
The Magic Oysters 133
"Well, then, we shall listen to her prayer/' the queen said.
And to Pak Moor, "You may go back to your wife and chil-
dren. And I shall answer the prayer of your wife. Here, grasp
your rope and climb up!"
Pak Moor, overjoyed because he believed that the queen
felt kindly toward him, leaped up the rope to the ladders,
climbed to the top of the cliff and stood once again on the
rocky wall. Then, muttering to himself about the great for-
tune that would come to him and to his family because Ratu
Loro Kidul had listened to his wife's prayer, he ran toward his
home. "Of course Gariah, my wife, prayed for something fine/'
he thought. "Gariah surely must have prayed for great wealth."
As he was hurrying homeward he saw his father-in-law run-
ning toward him, crying as he ran. "Why are you crying?" he
asked the old man. "Are you crying for me? Then dry your
tears, because Ratu Loro Kidul has given us a great fortune!
She has answered Gariah's prayer. . . ."
"Then Gariah must have prayed for misfortune!" the old
man sobbed. "Your house was ruined by the lightning, and
your coconut trees are all burned. And the storm swept
your goats and your chickens into the river and they all
drowned. . . ."
Pak Moor could not believe that this was true. He left the
old man standing in the road and ran on toward the village.
But his house was no longer there, and the coconut trees in
his garden were all charred. And near one of the bare, black-
ened tree trunks sat his wife, sobbing as if her heart would
break. The children, who were standing around her, were cry-
ing too, because they were very hungry.
When Gariah saw her husband coming, she began to weep
even harder. Pak Moor asked her, "Wife, what was it that
you asked in your prayer to the queen? Why did you pray for
134 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
misfortune? Why didn't you ask for riches and good luck?"
And his wife answered, sobbing, "I did ask for riches and good
luck! I asked for riches as great as your offering was great . . ."
Pak Moor had nothing to say. He dared not tell his wife
that the offering he had laid on the white mat was no offering
at allonly a few gnawed-off chicken bones and a few banana
skins. And from that day misfortune followed Pak Moor.
Pak Sidin, however, was rewarded by Ratu Loro Kidul. For
when he returned to his wife and children, who were sitting
sorrowful and hungry in the tumble-down hut, and gave them
the oysters that he had brought from the cave, he found that
in every oyster lay a large, perfect pearl! And with the money
that the beautiful white pearls brought, Pak Sidin was able
to buy a pair of buffaloes to work his rice field, and after that
there was always enough rice to feed his family.
But Gariah, Pak Moor's wife, could never understand why,
when she had prepared such a big offering for Ratu Loro Kidul
and had prayed for a fortune as great as the offering was great,
she should now be so poor. She could not understand why
Pak Sidin, whose offering had been only two batoks of rice,
should suddenly be so rich that he could build a new house
and two large rice-barns and buy a pair of buffaloes; or why
his harvest was so abundant that the barns were filled to burst-
ing with fine, full ears of rice!
THE BATTLE OF THE BUFFALOES
IN WESTERN SUMATRA, the houses have roofs that curve up-
ward at the ends to make them look like buffalo horns. The
roofs have been built this way for many centuries, and if you
ask why, the people will tell you this story:
In ancient times there was a mighty rajah of Java who was
so powerful that he had conquered all the islands of the
Indies. No one could withstand him. There was only a small
part of Sumatra the western part which had not yet come
under his rule, and he sent his ambassadors there with a mes-
sage: the people of that land must surrender or be killed.
The men met to discuss the rajah's edict. "If we fight, we
cannot win/' they decided, after a long time. "The rajah is
too strong and has too many men/'
"But if we do not fight," some of them said, "we will be
taken prisoner. Our women will be slaves. Our families will be
separated. Our houses will be burned. Our fields will be ruined.
Is it not better to fight?"
"But if we fight, many of us will be killed, and our women
will still be slaves and our fields will be ruined and our houses
burned," the others said.
"Then what is to be done?" they asked of each other.
136 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
One of the oldest men, a wise one, said at last, "When we
are weak in arms and men, we must be strong in heart and
mind. Let us think/'
So the men of all the villages in western Sumatra met to
think. What could they do to save themselves and their land
and their families? How could they outwit the rajah who was
determined to conquer them, as he had conquered the peoples
of all the other islands?
At last the old man spoke. "It has come to me/' he said,
"how we may save ourselves."
"Let us hear!" the villagers cried, though they had small
"Let us send word to the rajah that if we fight his army it
will mean great loss of life to all of us to his armies and to
ours. Instead we propose to send a karbau into the field against
any karbau that the rajah of Java may select. If our buffalo
wins, we shall be free forevermore. If his buffalo wins, then
we shall be his prisoners and his slaves."
"But where can we find a buffalo that will surely win?" a
young man demanded. "For if our buffalo does not win, then
it will as bad as if we had fought and lost."
"We must use our wits," the old man said.
The people grumbled that it was a wild scheme, that there
was no assurance that the old man's plan would work or that
the rajah would even accept the challenge.
"Have you a better idea?" the old man asked.
They mumbled that they could think of nothing else.
"Well, then?" said the old man.
So the people of all the villages chose a messenger to go to
Java and tell the powerful rajah of their plan. "Is it not bet-
ter," the emissary said, "that one buffalo dies in battle than
many of our men and yours?"
The rajah thought it over. "It is true/* he said. "I am tired
of battles, yet I wish to add all of western Sumatra to my
kingdom. So I will send the biggest and strongest buffalo in
all my islands to fight against any buffalo you may choose. And
my buffalo will win and your people shall be my slaves. For
where can you find a buffalo to stand up against one I have
chosen, when I have all the islands of the Indies in which to
find him, and you have only the puny lands of western Su-
When the messenger returned, there was gladness among
the people, because now at least there was a chance to escape
The rajah meanwhile sent his hunters throughout his king-
dom to find the fiercest buffalo they could discover and to
bring it back to him. And when they returned with their prize,
the rajah smiled to himself. Surely no buffalo in the world
138 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
could be bigger or fiercer or stronger than the animal that
stood before him, eyes blazing, head crowned with long,
The Sumatrans found their buffalo, too. They took a young
bull calf from its mother and put it in a pen, away from her,
while they fitted sharp iron points to its little horns. The calf
was hungry and cried, but they did not feed it or let it go
near its mother so that it could drink her milk. They kept it
penned up for three days, until the little buffalo was desperate
The rajah of Java came to western Sumatra, with his retinue
and his fighters and his buffalo. "Bring on your buffalo/' he
cried imperiously, "and let us get this over!"
His keepers released the fierce buffalo from his cage at one
end of the field, and the creature stood with lowered head,
seeming to breathe fire through his nostrils. Everyone watched
as the villagers let the hungry little buffalo out of his pen.
The rajah and his courtiers laughed aloud at this foolish
business. "It will be a matter of seconds," the rajah sneered.
"Why did I come all the way from Java to see such a silly
spectacle? The people of western Sumatra are even more
stupid than I believed."
The little buffalo calf stood on its wobbly legs at one end
of the field. At the other end, it saw another buffalo, big and
strong. From the distance, it looked like its mother.
On its weak little legs, the calf began to run across the field.
The big buffalo stood waiting for one of his own size to come
and fight him.
The little buffalo ran up to to the creature it thought was
its mother, and lifted its hungry mouth to find milk.
The sharp points the Sumatrans had put on its horns ripped
The Battle of the Buffaloes 139
open the big buffalo's belly, and he let out a cry of pain and
The villagers shouted with joy. The rajah stood up and shook
his fist toward the sky. "I have been fooled," he roared in an-
ger. But he had promised . . . and so he took his warriors
and his courtiers and his big buffalo back to Java, and never
bothered the people of western Sumatra again.
The villagers removed the iron points from the little buf-
falo's horns, decked it with garlands of flowers, and led it
back to its mother so it could slake its thirst.
And from that day to this the people of western Sumatra
have built their roofs to resemble the long, curved horns of
the karbau, and they call their land Minangkabau the victory
of the buffalo.
THE SACRED FISH OF POLAMAN
IN ONE of the many villages that, ages ago, lay at the foot of
the Smeru, India's holy mountain, there lived a Hindu who
was a pariaha member of one of the lower castes. He was
ridiculed by all who knew him because he had told them that
he had had a dream in which Brahma himself had said, 'Tola-
man, someday you shall perform a miracle/'
"You, a pariah, you have been chosen to perform a mira-
cle?" they taunted.
Polaman did not understand it himself. He was so poor
that he could barely buy enough food to keep himself alive.
How could he ever perform a miracle? With what? But he
said stoutly, '"That is what Brahma told me in my dream."
On a certain day, after he had been going about the town
of Singosari begging, he sat down on the steps of the temple,
with the other beggars, to count his pennies. He was tired and
hot and discouraged. "Nine pennies!" he said sadly to him-
self. "Nine pennies! Not even enough to buy some rice or
grain." The words of the dream came to him, and he knew
that the others were right to ridicule him. "How shall I, who
am so poor, ever perform a miracle?"
He got up from the temple steps and walked toward the
The Sacred Fish of Polaman 141
market, where people were milling about, to buy food from
the little stands. But when he asked for nine pennies' worth
of rice or grain, everyone laughed at him and told him to
Hungry and tired, he walked to the edge of the woods that
surrounded the town. Under a palm tree sat a woman with
head bowed. She was weeping. Polaman thought, "She must
be a pariah like myself. She's weeping because people have
been abusing her and scoffing at her, as they do at me/ 7 He
went up to her and said gently, "Why do you weep, my sister?"
The woman raised her eyes. "I am not your sister/' she said
haughtily. "I belong to the Brahman caste. My brother, one
of the priests, brought me these fish from one of the villages
in the kingdom of Surabaya. . . ."
She opened a little basket made of woven palm fibers and
showed Polaman a number of tiny silver fish which, as soon
as the basket was opened, leaped out and slithered over the
Polaman who had never seen live fish, sprang back in fear.
"Don't touch them!" he shouted to the woman. "Don't touch
them! They're bewitched." She was trying, without much suc-
cess, to catch the little fish and and return them to the basket.
"Please don't touch them!" Polaman begged. "Whoever
saw fish that sprang about like grasshoppers?"
'1 know, ... I didn't dare touch them at first myself,"
the woman said. "But my brother said that the fish he saw in
the village by the sea all leap about like that. He said that is
because they were caught alive in the water, and they can
live only in water. But when I put them in good hot water,
they wouldn't stay in it! They sprang out, throwing the hot
water over my feet so that I shrieked with pain. And now what
am I going to do with them?" she asked. "I certainly don't
142 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
want the creatures. Would you perhaps buy them from me?' 7
Polaman wanted very much to have them. He thought the
little silver fish were beautiful, and, he thought, they ought
to be very tasty. But he had only nine pennies. "I'd like to
buy them/' he told the woman, "but I am poor; I have only
The woman was secretly afraid of the little fish that were
leaping about in the basket, but of course she would not say
so to Polaman. 'Take them/' she said. 'Take them, basket
and all. But go at once, because my brother might come along
and see that I had sold these lovely little fish to a pariah/'
Polaman did not let himself be bothered by her words. As
a pariah, he was used to such words. So he paid her his nine
pennies, took the basket, and put it on his head.
He said to himself, as he walked toward the woods, "I'll
build a fire, and fry the fish. With some fruit that I may find
in the woods they'll make a meal fit for the gods."
"They'll not become a meal for the gods," a tiny, thin voice
said, almost in his left ear.
Polaman looked around. There wasn't a soul in sight. He
thought, "I could have sworn that I heard something. Maybe
it was a bat, hanging on one of the branches and squeak-
He was desperately hungry and could scarcely wait to build
a fire and fry his fish. When he found a small open spot, he
gathered some wood and was just laying a fire when he saw
a bull coming toward him, head lowered, at full speed. "He'll
kill me!" Polaman thought in fright. "He'll kill me. I have
"Quick! Throw the bull two of your little fish, and nothing
shall harm you!" a voice said in his ear the same thin, fine
voice that he thought he had heard just a while before.
The Sacred Fish of Polaman 143
Without thinking, Polaman grabbed two of the fish out of
the basket and threw them toward the bull. And, to his amaze-
ment, as soon as the bull saw the fish, he stopped suddenly,
turned around, and ran with equal speed in the opposite
Just the same, Polaman wasn't sure that the bull might
not return. He decided not to wait to build a fire in this
particular place. He would go farther into the woods.
As he rounded a curve in the forest path he saw, half-hidden
behind a veil of waving tree moss, a woman who, he knew at
once, belonged to the highest caste. She crouched on the
earth, her head in her hands, and her shoulders shook with
He was a pariah and dared not go near her. He paused, but
her weeping did not stop. At last he could not stand it any
longer, and he asked humbly, "Tell me, O daughter of
Brahma, why you are so sad?"
The woman had not heard him approach and now she
looked up with large, frightened eyes. "Oh, help me ... help
me!" she cried breathlessly, as if she had been running.
"Brahma be praised! He must have sent you to me. ... At
first I thought you were someone who would take me back
... to the house I fled from . . . last night. For you see
. . . my husband . . . died and I was to be burnt on his
pyre." She shivered, her eyes beseeching him.
"I don't want to die! Before they came to bind my feet and
crown me with flowers I ran away ... I ran and ran" Sud-
denly she leaped up. "Listen! They are coming! Don't you
hear them coming through the woods, singing?"
Yes, Polaman heard them, too. The sound grew louder as
they listened. The woman's face was full of fear. Oh, if only
he could rescue her!
144 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
It was almost as if someone nearby had read his thoughts,
for again the little voice whispered in his ear, "Throw two
of the fish behind youhurry, hurry and you will be saved!"
Polaman thought, "I'll try it again. The fish saved me before
when the bull rushed at me."
He took two of the little fish out of the basket and threw
them onto the ground. Almost at once two huge tigers leaped
out of the underbrush, snatched the fish and ate them in one
gulp, and began to growl fiercely in their throats. When the
Brahmans appeared on the path, the tigers sprang toward
them, growling and snarling so loudly that the men turned
and fled, shrieking in fear. The tigers ran after them.
"Now you are saved!" Polaman said, sighing with relief.
"Now you can return to the house of your elders."
"My elders," the woman said sadly, "would only return me
to the house of my husband from which I fled last night. They
find it a great honor that a daughter of theirs was married to
a man of such high rank that she must be burned on his
pyre. . . . Oh, take me with you!" she begged. "Wherever
you go I will follow you!"
"But I am a pariah, an outcast," Polaman told her,
touched that she should want to go with him. "Don't you
know, noble lady, that it would be called a misdeed if we
should go our way together?"
"I know that," the woman said. "I will become a pariah
too, for the rest of my life. Only let me go with you as your
sister; or, if you don't want that, let me be your wife."
Polaman, the stepchild of the world, knelt on the ground
and kissed the feet of the Brahman lady. He said humbly,
"Where I go, there shall you go also, my wife." And they rose
together and went farther into the woods, walking side by side
until Polaman, who had not eaten all day, was faint with
"Let us rest here a while/' he said, "and I will fry our fish."
His wife began to hunt for wood and flint. She came back
discouraged. "Here is wood/' she said, laying down a bundle
of sticks, "but I cannot find any flint/ 7
"Never mind/' he comforted her. "Well just eat the fish
raw/' He started to open the little basket, but stopped when
he heard the same soft, high voice whispering, "Better save
your fish till you have need of them. Look around you!"
Polaman looked around him, and saw a big palm tree, full
of ripe coconuts. High in the tree sat two monkeys. The
monkeys saw Polaman and his wife and were exceedingly
146 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
angry. In their anger they tore off the coconuts and threw
them down, one after the other, till Polaman and his wife
had more than enough with which to still their hunger and
Polaman wanted to find his way out of the woods, but his
wife cried, "Oh 7 Polaman, let us go on! If we leave the woods,
people will see me, and tomorrow they will build a pyre, just
for me, and burn me."
"But I must find the way out of the woods!" Polaman said.
"See, the sun is already going down, and my village lies so
far from here. We shall be lost. And what then? Well starve.
Or the tigers will find us and eat us/ 7
"Maybe the tigers will have more pity on me than my
friends and my elders," his wife said sadly. "Maybe they will
They began to walk on, taking some of the coconuts with
them. They walked until night fell and they could not see one
foot in front of the other. "We shall have to spend the night
here," Polaman said. "At least we have our coconuts and our
fish. We won't have to go hungry."
They had just sat down and begun to open a coconut when
suddenly, very near them, they heard a most frightful noise.
"Oh, it's the tigers!" the woman cried, crazed with fear.
"What can we do? What can we do?"
"Climb a tree," Polaman answered swiftly. "And wait for
They felt along the tree trunks. It was so dark that they
could see nothing. But they could tell that there were only
young trees here, that would break under their weight. And
the growling of the tigers came closer and closer!
They clasped each other's hands and, in desperation, waited
for the tigers to pounce on them and kill them. Again the
The Sacred Fish of Polaman 147
thin, light voice came clearly to them: "There are four tigers.
Throw each one of them a fish, and they can do you no harm."
In the darkness Polaman and his wife could already see the
glittering eyes of the tigers. He fumbled at the basket, got it
open, and threw four of the fish into the night.
Polaman and his wife stood rooted to the ground with fear.
What would happen? They could not see the tigers, but all
at once they knew that the beasts had found the fish and eaten
them. And a moment later, the sound of their snarling and
growling grew more distant . . . and still farther away . . .
and they realized that the tigers had gone in the direction of
Singosari, away from them!
Polaman's wife cried, in a trembling voice, "Polaman, you
are no ordinary man! You are no pariah! You are a magician
one of Brahma's chosen! I will never be afraid again. No,
not even if a thousand tigers come after us!"
Her husband was not so easy in his mind. He knew very well
that he was no magician, and, moreover, he had noticed that
there were only two little fish left in the basket. He gave a deep
"What do I have now for my nine pennies?" he thought to
himself. "And what will happen, if more tigers come and I
have to throw them the last of my fish?"
"If you have rested enough/ 7 he said to his wife, "let's go
deeper into the woods. One never knows; there might be more
"Very well," his wife said, 'let's grope our way along. I'll
not be afraid when I am with you."
Polaman walked thoughtfully, trying to think what he
should do. He noticed, by the sound of her voice, that his
beautiful wife was thoughtful, too. In spite of what she had
said, she must be worried and still fearful. They went farther
140 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
and farther into the forest, not knowing where they were
going or which path to follow, fumbling and stumbling
through the darkness. The path grew harder to follow and
they found themselves hemmed in by tall, sharp plants with
long thorns. The thorns pricked their bodies and cut their feet
and hands. When they tried to push them away, the thorns
caught in their hair and held them fast.
While they tried to free themselves, Polaman suddenly
cried, "Look, wife, look! What do you see?"
"What should I see?" she answered, thinking that he had
glimpsed another tiger or some other beast of prey.
"There! Look there, over to the right!" he cried, in joy.
"See, it's glimmering through the tree trunks."
His wife did not understand him. "I don't see anything,"
she complained. "Nothing but a strip of light. Perhaps it's the
beginning of day"
"I think it's the edge of the forest," Polaman rejoiced. "If it
is, and if we can reach it, our troubles are over."
The strip of light grew broader. Their fear and weariness
forgotten, they walked faster and faster. But when they reached
it, they saw that it was not a strip of light. It was a little pond.
The pond had been formed by a tiny stream of water that fell
over a rock. In the grey light of dawn Polaman and his wife
saw, too, that a colony of monkeys was sitting in the crotches
of the vine-hung trees. Old and young monkeys shrieked at
them. It was as if they were crying, "What are you doing in
our territory?" They made so much noise that Polaman
thought of giving them the last of his fish.
Just then his wife called anxiously, "Oh, Polaman, take this
dreadful bat off my head! Oh, oh, he's grabbing my hair!"
"I can't!" Polaman shouted back. "There's one on my own
The Sacred Fish of Polaman 149
"You must help me you must!" Her voice rose in terror.
"Believe me, I can't do it!" Polaman was beside himself.
"There's another one on my shoulder!"
"Yes, you can!" his wife protested angrily now. "You're a
magician. Do something! Fm terrified of the creatures!"
Polaman, trying hard to rid himself of his own bats, sud-
denly heard the little voice: "Put one fish on top of your
wife's head, and one on your own . . . and see what hap-
Polaman was scarcely able to get his hands free of the bats'
great claws and the widespread wings encircling him, but at
last he managed it, ripped open the basket, and reached for
the remaining fish. He rushed blindly toward his wife and put
a fish on her head, and then one on his own head. Then he
tossed the empty basket on the ground.
And then the miracle happened! As soon as the bats saw
the fish, they flew with them to the pond and threw them into
it. And immediately the lid of the basket opened, of itself,
and out of it flowed crystal-clear water in a broad stream.
The little pond became a small lake. The water continued to
flow out of the basket and the little lake became a big lake.
The deep water was so clear that Polaman could see the two
fish at the bottom. And as he looked one of the fish opened
its tiny mouth and said, in the same thin, high voice that
Polaman had heard so many times:
"Polaman, we are the sacred fish which Brahma sent to in-
habit this lake and to stock it with our descendants. And be-
cause you brought us here, the lake is to be called by your
name the Lake of Polaman. You are not to go back to your
village at the foot of Smeru. You are to stay in this neighbor-
hood and found a village here which, even as the lake, shall
bear your name. Be sure to tell everyone who comes here to
150 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
live or to visit that we are sacred fish, and that we must never
be caught, or killed, or eaten. That is Brahma's will, and he
will punish anyone who does us harm, as he will reward any-
one who is good to us/'
Polaman could not believe his ears. "It is a great honor/' he
said humbly, when he could find his voice. For he was remem-
bering his dream and how people had scoffed at him. Yet it
had come to pass he had performed a miracle!
To this day the lake is known by his name, and the village,
too. But never since the day the Lake of Polaman was formed
have the fish spoken again.
ONCE UPON A TIME ? long, long ago, three orphaned sisters lived
together in a small hut. They were very poor. To earn a little
money, they helped neighboring fanners get their fields ready
for planting, and helped them again at harvest time.
It was while the two older sisters were garnering grain in a
harvest field that they came upon a little bird cowering under
some rice stalks. He did not flit away as they approached, and
he looked at them so piteously that they picked him up and
took him home with them. They found that he was not in-
jured., but he did not seem to want to fly away.
So they plaited a little cage of rattan for him, and the bird
flew into the cage and was happy. Now the girls hated to leave
their hut in the morning, and they could hardly wait to get
home in the evening, for the bird was always there waiting
for them, cocking his head to one side and chirping a greeting.
They called him Kekeko, because that was what he said:
The girls had so little to eat that they were always hungry;
nevertheless they always managed to save a few grains of rice
or bits of fruit for Kekeko.
They had had the bird only a short time when one day he
152 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
astonished them by speaking. "Set me in a basket/' he chirped,
"and I will lay."
At first they could not believe that he had really said the
"Did you hear him?" the oldest sister asked the others.
"He said, 'Set me in a basket and I will lay/ " the second
And the third, and youngest, sister piped up, "I heard him,
too. That's just what he said. But do you suppose he really
"Of course I mean it/' Kekeko said impatiently. "Set me in
a basket and I will lay."
So finally they did as he demanded; but, though they
watched for hours, nothing happened. They ate their meager
supper and put a few scraps in Kekeko's basket. At last they
were so tired that they stretched out on their mats and went
Next morning they ran to the basket, and lo it was full of
cooked rice and fish!
The girls had never had so much to eat. They ate until they
could eat no more, and still there was plenty left. Kekeko
looked happy, but he said nothing until late in the afternoon.
Then he ordered, "Set me in the basket and I will lay."
This time they hurried to do his bidding and, sure enough,
next morning the basket was overflowing with cooked rice and
fish. Now the sisters had more than enough; they could not
find room for all the food.
Day after day this happened, until at last the three sisters
implored the bird to give them uncooked rice instead. Then
they could store it, and not have to throw good food away.
Kekeko nodded, and next morning the basket contained only
uncooked rice but a great mound of it!
The Wonder-Tree 153
They put the rice in baskets and hampers. They cooked all
they needed, and there was still rice left over. Visitors who
came to the little hut marveled that the three girls, who had
always been so poor, now had a wealth of riceenough and to
News got about the village, and spread to the next village
where their uncle lived. He had never bothered with them
since their parents had died, and had not offered to help them
in any way. But when he heard of their great store of rice, he
came in a hurry, rubbing his hands and beaming at them.
"I have always wanted to visit you," he said. "And I ain
sorry it has been such a long time since Fve inquired about
your health. But I've been busy. It takes all my time to work
my poor fields and to get enough food for my family/' He
looked around the hut and said, in pretended surprise, "How
does it happen, my dear nieces, that you have such a wealth
of rice? You have come into a fortune? Your neighbors supply
you, perhaps? Surely you did not earn all this yourselves/'
The youngest sister said eagerly, "Oh, no, uncle. You see,
we never had enough to eat, but now our bird, Kekeko, which
my sisters caught, gives us all our rice/'
"Now that is impossible!" their uncle exclaimed, eyeing the
bird. It was hard for him to keep on smiling, for his heart was
filled with envy. To think that these girls had all the rice they
needed and more, while he had barely enough to feed his
"Kekeko gives us rice every day/' the youngest child said.
The uncle's eyes glittered with greed. "Then surely you
could spare him for a few days for your old uncle/' he whined.
"Just for a little while, till my baskets and hampers are full."
Kekeko squawked suddenly, as if he did not want to go, and
the older sisters looked at one another doubtfully. But their
154 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
uncle kept pleading, "Just for a few days, my dear nieces! You
would not deny this to your poor uncle?"
And at last they let their uncle take the bird, but the oldest
sister managed to whisper to Kekeko, "Do not give him good
rice, Kekeko. He has not been kind to us, and we could have
starved for all he cared."
Kekeko nodded his bright head, and the uncle, after a short
time, took the bird with him back to his village.
The girls waited for their uncle to return Kekeko, but he
did not come. They waited a week, and still their uncle did not
Their store of rice was shrinking, but, more important than
that, they missed Kekeko and wanted him back. They cleaned
his cage and put aside some of their best rice and fish for the
bird, and then set out to visit their uncle and fetch Kekeko.
But when they got there, they could not see Kekeko any-
where. Their uncle snarled at them, "He is not here."
"Why? What have you done with him?" the sisters asked.
"I ate him/' their uncle said angrily.
"Oh, uncle, surely you did not eat our darling Kekeko! Why
would you do such a thing?"
"The -wretched bird did not give me any rice," the man
shouted. "None at all! Day after day I ordered him to give me
rice, but he would not. And so I killed him . . . and to make
sure that he was gone, I ate him. The miserable creature!"
When they heard that, the sisters fell to the ground, crying
and moaning. "Now we shall never get our Kekeko back!"
"If you want him back, find his bones," their uncle said
cruelly. He laughed to see them searching over the ground for
the bones of the little bird.
They gathered up all the tiny bones they could find and
wrapped them in a cloth. Sorrowfully, they walked back to
their village, mourning because the bird was lost to them for-
ever. When they reached their hut they put the bones in the
little cage and, with tears running down their cheeks, buried
it in the soft earth near the house.
Soon, they thought, they would be poor again, for their rice
156 INDONESIAN LEGENDS AND FOLK TALES
and fish would not last long. Soon they must work the fields
again and depend on their fanner neighbors for help. But,
worst of all, they would miss the bright head and the chirping
voice of their Kekeko. They fell asleep, crying, in the dark.
Next morning, just as the sun was up, they rose to take a
little offering of flowers to the place where Kekeko lay buried.
And as they approached the spot they stopped in amazement,
and their eyes grew round and their mouths fell open. For a
wonderful tree had grown over the place where Kekeko was
buried a tree with leaves of shimmering silk, with great blos-
soms of shining earrings and jeweled pins, with marvelous
fruits that tinkled with a beautiful sound. A tree on which,
pluck as they would, there always remained leaves of shimmer-
ing silk and blossoms of shining earrings and jeweled pins, and
fruits that tinkled musically all day long. Their wonder-tree,
the sisters called it. But they all knew it was really their darling
Kekefco who was still helping them, even though they would
never see him again.
adat (ah-daht) custom
alang-alang (ah-lahng-ah-lahng)-- a tall grass with long, sharp
Allah (ah-lah) the Mohammedans' name for God
Amboina (ahm-boy-nah) an island of Indonesia
Baduwi (ba-doo-wee) the name of a tribe
Bantam (bahn-tahm) -a province of Java
Batak (bah-tahk) a region of Sumatra; also the name of the
people who live there
Batara Guru (bah-tah-rah goo-roo) one of the demigods; he
played a part in creating the world
batok (bah-tok) half a coconut shell
Besi (beh-sih) an island between Java and Sumatra
betel (bee-t'l)--a type of palm tree; the fruit, the betel nut, is
ground, wrapped with lime in the leaves of the palm and
chewed by East Indians
Borneo (bohr-nee-oh) one of the largest islands of Indonesia
Brahma (brah-mah) the chief god of the Hindu trinity (the
others are Vishnu and Siva); Brahma is regarded as the
creator of the universe
Brahman (brah-man) a Hindu of the highest caste
Bromo (broh-mo) a volcanic mountain in Java; also the name
of the mountain giant
buata (boo-ah-tah) a demon of the air
Celebes (seh-leh-bes) a large island of the Indonesian group
dewi (de-wih) goddess
Dewi Sri (de-wih srih) the wife of Vishnu
Durga (dur-gah) the goddess who once conquered the buffa-
Dwars-in-den-weg one of the small islands between Java
Dyak (dy-yak) one of the tribes (or a member of the tribe)
gamelan (gah-meh-lahn) an orchestra composed of xylo-
phones, gongs, drums and cymbals
guning ( goo-noong) mountain
Hindu (hin-doo) one who belongs to the religious faith of
ikan leleh (ih-kahn leh-leh) a long, dark grey fish, resembling
Indra (in-drah) chief god of the early Hindu religion; he
wields thunderbolts, and overcomes enemies
Islam (is-lahm) the religion and doctrine of Mohammedan-
ism; it also refers to all Moslems and the countries they
Java (jah-vah) one of the main islands of Indonesia
kai (ky)-old or respected
Kajangka (kah-jahng-kah) ruler of the moon
Kama Jaja (kah-mah jah-jah) the protector of married people
kanchil (kahn-tchil) the mouse-deer
Karang (kah-rahng) the name of a mountain
Karang-Bolong (kah-rahng boh-long) cliffs on the shores of
karbau (kar-bah-oo) the water buffalo
Glossary 1 59
Kawitjaksana (kah-wit-jahk-sah-nah)-- a name meaning "her-
mit full of wisdom"
Kembang Manis (kem-bahng mah-nis) a name meaning
Kendang (ken-dahng) a mountain range
Krakatau (kra-ka-tah-oo) an island volcano between Java
kris (krees) the dagger used by Indonesians
Lombok (lom-bohk) an island of Indonesia
Lurah Dalam (loo-rah dah-lam) a favorite of the gods who,
by day, ruled over the kingdom of Bantam
Macassar (mah-kahs-sahr) a city on the island of Celebes
Majapahit (mah-jah-pah-hit) a powerful Indonesian dynasty
before the advent of Mohammedanism
Mecca (mek-kah) -a city in Arabia; it is the birthplace of
Mohammed, and therefore a holy city to Moslems
Merbabu (mer-bah-boo) a mountain
Minangkabau (mm-ahng-kah-bah-oo) the name by which
western Sumatra was first known
Mohammed (mo-hahm-med) the prophet and founder of
the Mohammedan religion
monsoon (mon-soon)a seasonal wind; also the rainy season
(June to September) beginning with the onset of the south-
Moslem (mos-lem) followers of the religion of Mohammed
nai ( ny ) housekeeper or wife
paddy a wet or irrigated rice field; the word may also refer
to rice in the husk, growing or gathered
pariah (pa-ri-ah) a member of a low caste of southern India
Perak (peh-rahk) a town in Indonesia
Pulosari (poo-lo-sah-rih)-a mountain
raden (rah-den) ruler
rajah (rah-jah) a king or ruler
raksasa (rahk-sah-sah)- a giant; also a temple watchman
rattanany climbing palm whose long, tough stems are used
in making wickerwork
ratu (rah-too) queen
Ratu Loro Kidul (rah-too loh-roh kih-dool) the Queen of the
Rongko-b (rong-kob) a town in Java
Sanagara (sah-nah-gah-rah) a powerful king who once con-
quered a large part of Indonesia
sawah (sah-wah)- a wet rice field
Segara Anakan (seh-gah-rah ah-nah-kahn) the Children's Sea
Segarawedi (seh-gah-rah-we-dih) a mountain
Singosari (sing-oh-sah-rih) a town in Java
sirih set the implements and vessels used for preparing betel
nut, which is mixed with lime and chewed; the sets belong-
ing to nobles or kings were often made of gold
Smeru (smeh-roo) a volcanic mountain in Java
Sumatra (soo-mah-trah)~-one of the largest islands of Indo-
Sunda (soon-dah) the name of the straits between Java and
Surabaya (soo-rah-by-yah) a city in Java
tapa (tah-pah) a hermit or holy man
Tengger (teng-ger)-a mountain range
tuan (too-ahn) a term of respect equal to "master"
Vishnu (vish-noo) the second member of the Hindu trinity;
he is called the "preserver"
waringen (wah-ring-en) the banyan tree
warong (wah-rong) a portable stove on which food is cooked/'
often along the roads
waru wanggi (wah-roo wahng-gih) a tree; wriggi means "fra-
After her graduation from the Hartridge School
for Girls in Plainfield, New Jersey, Adele de Leeuw
chose travel in place of college, and says that she has
never regretted the choice. Her father was a Hol-
lander, and the family lived in the Netherlands for
months at a time. Out of this experience came one
of her first books, The Flavor of Holland, which
was cndursc' 1 ^ rlistrTk"*-- " l y :!.: ^irnegie Foun-
dation for International Peace; it was illustrated
with her own photographs.
Miss de Leeuw has traveled in many countries.
She spent six months in the Dutch East Indies, as
Indonesia was then called, and there she heard
many of the stories in this book. Others she has
translated from the Dutch (which she reads and
speaks) or adapted from books on Indonesian folk-
Miss de Leeuw is the author of two volumes of
verse and more than a score of books for young